July 2010

I had never planned to use this blog as a forum to vent. However, a situation came up yesterday that I feel the need to vent about. While on vacation in New Jersey, we stopped at a local McDonald’s to grab a fast bite to eat at 10pm. Knowing full well that there are not a tremendous amount of gluten-free choices, I chose to inquire about the grilled chicken breast salad. The manager at the Toms River McDonald’s was very annoyed with the interruption of the usual flow of business in order to answer my question. In a very flippant manner she told me that there were no ingredients on the box the frozen chicken came in, assured me that they “cook up the chicken and throw it on the salad” without adding any marinate, and that it is gluten-free. Originally, the salad was bought for my oldest daughter with celiac disease. However, she did not want it, so I ate it. Needless to say, I did not even make it home before a reaction started. I then continued to be ill for the next several hours. After going online, my husband read that McDonald’s grilled chicken breast does contain wheat.

This morning, I called the national number to McDonald’s Headquarters. The two customer service representatives I spoke with were kind, however somewhat helpless to my plight. The procedure is to inform the store owner of the mishap and reprimand the employee for their crass behavior. Unfortunately, this is not addressing the bigger picture. It is dangerous, to say the least, to have employees not be aware of potential food allergies. It should not be expected that each employee memorize every ingredient in each product. But,there does need to be something accessible at a moments notice that does list any and all possible hazards in their products. I mentioned this to one of the reps I spoke with. Her answer to me was if there is a question, the employee can call headquarters anytime or go online to have access to ingredients. The likelihood is very slim that at 10 o’clock at night this will occur. So, it is easier to lie than to put forth that extra effort.

I am left with a couple of thoughts. Number one, what if it were a wheat allergic patient that ate the contaminated food? That is a potentially fatal situation. Second, what would the corporate office do with this info to change the current situation? It just so happens that I asked those exact questions to the service rep I spoke with on the second call. Kenny informed me that he could not even guarantee that the people at corporate headquarters would even know of my call. I then asked to speak with someone in the corporate office. I was told that I could have the mailing address and send my complaint in the mail. I became increasingly frustrated and asked  why have this number if there is no guarantee that anything will come of this. He stated that he cannot promise they will not see it, nor can he promise that they will.

I realize that anytime those of us with Celiac Disease/food intolerances stray to eat outside the home, we are taking a great risk with our health. However, reality being what it is, sometimes we need to eat on the road. One would further believe that McDonald’s would be a trusted name at which to take a risk. Apparently, I was wrong.

At this point, I am awaiting feedback from McDonald’s headquarters. I would ask those reading this blog to refrain from eating at McDonald’s until we see they are taking this issue seriously. I will write an addendum to this post once I have something further to add.

I am continually amazed at the amount of associated conditions that occur along with or due to celiac disease. In a July 2, 2010 publication of Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol, there is a study linking GERD to Celiac Disease. The study enlisted 133 adult celiac patients at the time of diagnosis of celiac disease and 70 healthy controls. Of the 133 celiac patients, 30% had moderate-to-severe gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) symptoms based on the Gastrointestinal Symptoms Rating Scale for heartburn and regurgitation domains. Only 5.7% of the control group were diagnosed with GERD. All 30% of the celiac patients with reflux demonstrated complete resolution of symptoms after 3 months on a strict gluten-free diet.

In my practice, reflux-type symptoms are one of the most common presenting complaints I see. This study begets the question , Do I screen my more refractory GERD patients for celiac disease based on their GERD alone? I do not have an answer for this as yet. However, I feel as if I am leaning in that direction.

 If you would like to read the abstract to the study, please visit http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20601132.