A couple of questions that I frequently receive while presenting at conferences are if French fries are gluten free and how to ensure that there is no cross contact with other foods that contain gluten and other allergens.
I’d like to share with you a few thoughts and questions that you can ask restaurant staff while ordering your meals. These help to ensure that your French fries are gluten free and that no cross contact mistakes are made.
From a French fry standpoint, potatoes are naturally gluten free. That being said, food preparation techniques in restaurants and fast food chains can impact if the French fries remain gluten free.
Cross-contact occurs in two primary instances. First, when menu items such as French fries are prepared in the same frying oil as other foods containing common allergens. And second, when microbes or food particles are transferred from one food to another by using the same knife, cutting board, pots, pans or other utensils without washing the surfaces or tools in between uses.
To avoid cross-contact, the restaurant should use a dedicated fryer for French fries to be gluten free. Ensuring a dedicated fryer is extremely important for those with gluten, wheat, dairy, fish and shellfish allergies so no cross contact from fried foods such as cheese sticks, breaded calamari and battered fish occurs.
Sample questions for safe gluten free French fries are:
- “Are your French fries fried in the same fryer and oil as breaded items such as your chicken fingers and onion rings?”
- “Do you use any packaged seasonings on your fries which contain gluten?”
- “Do you flour dust your fries prior to frying?” (This is now a relatively rare cooking technique – it was used primarily in France to ensure that the fries would not stick together.)
If the answer to any of the three questions above is yes then the French fries are NOT gluten free.
NOTE: For gluten free fries at fast food restaurants, we recommend that you check the respective gluten free menu and/or allergy chart on your favorite fast food website or download our iCanEat Fast Food Gluten Free and Allergy Free Apple app.
The same type of dedicated fryer question holds true in Mexican restaurants: “Are your corn chips fried in the same fryer as your chimichangas?” If the answer is yes, then the corn chips are NOT gluten free due to the cross contact with the flour tortillas.
To ensure no cross contact has occurred from a boiling water perspective, a question in Italian restaurants would be: “Can you make sure the gluten free pasta is cooked in clean boiling water in a designated pot?”
To avoid possible transference of food particles, a sample question is: “Do you use designated cutting boards, knives, pans and utensils when preparing my gluten free and allergy free dish?”
In the case of open flamed grills, the extreme temperature turns most food particles into carbon. Use of a clean wire brush designed for grill racks typically removes residual contaminants.
The staff must also wash all materials that may come in contact with food in hot, soapy water prior to preparing items for those following an allergen-free diet. You may also ask the staff to change their gloves prior to preparing your meal.
We have also included these cross contact considerations for French fries and other menu items in the iEatOut Apple app for ethnic restaurants, our translation cards, Let’s Eat Out Around the World books, language phrase guides and country specific travel kits to help during your travels within the US and across the globe.
I hope that this advice helps you when eating out in restaurants close to home and abroad!