McDonald's Email: Don't Tell Your Customers If They Are Still Eating Trans-Fat

McDonalds has announced that all New York City restaurants are serving trans-fat free fries, but if you eat McD’s fries in the rest of the country, you’re taking your chances with the trans-fat. You might get the trans-fat free fries, you might not. If you ask the people at the restaurant, they’re not supposed to tell you.

Currently, about 1/4 of McDonald’s locations have switched over to the new, healthier oil. An email sent out last Friday to franchisees and employees gives instructions on dealing with the public.

To successfully manage customer expectations nationwide, we are not disclosing the full list of markets which have been already using the oil as part of our test program. We will only acknowledge use of the oil in New York City due to its requirements,” said the e-mail, which was reviewed by Dow Jones Newswires.

While it predicted that “customers in all our restaurant locations will become increasingly interested in whether their favorite fries are being cooked in the new oil or not, (w)e ask the entire system to hold any further acknowledgment of our deployment markets until we can announce as a full system that we are zero grams” of trans fat, the message said.

“If you are in a market which has been involved in oil tests, do not identify the change to your crew, customers or media,” it continued. “We want to avoid comparisons of menu items and restaurants during this conversion…. You will be notified later this year of our full deployment plans and when we can cross the finish line and announce our success together,” it said.


McDonald’s Mum on Trans-Fat-Free Fries [Forbes]
(Photo: Ben Popken)


Edit Your Comment

  1. bnet41 says:

    Sounds like pretty standard internal corporate communication for a chain type operation.

    I imagine this program is quite the pain to rollout to all those stores. They probably want to make sure all store 100% converted before it goes to the press.

  2. TechnoDestructo says:

    “To successfully manage customer expectations nationwide, we are not disclosing the full list of markets which have been already using the oil as part of our test program.”

    If they’re that worried about “managing expectations,” I’m not sure a “test program” is strictly neccesary.

  3. dohtem says:

    Heh, this is like heart-attack Russian roulette.

    Where the healthy fries are, no one knows.

  4. banned says:

    Until announced otherwise, I will assume none are using the new oil and thus I will not purchase from there.

  5. joeblevins says:

    dohtem – There is zero chance that those fries would be considered healthy. Heck, the latest word is that the trans-free stuff is potentially worse.

  6. jaredharley says:

    @joeblevins: You bring to mind Olestra. Anyone remember Olestra?

  7. Wormfather says:

    Actually, this is pretty much SOP. They’re not asking them to lie to customers, just not to disclose the information. An undergoing like changing from one oil to the next while simplistic sounding, is a royal pain in the ass on a scale like this.

    Plus, lets remember that outside of certain markets, this change is voluntary.

  8. royal72 says:

    @dohtem: “Heh, this is like heart-attack Russian roulette.”

    damn it you beat me to it. though i was going to suggest using one of those multiple nerf projectile guns. pump that fucker with as much air pressure as you can, fill one barrel with ketchup and fries, and pass it around the table at mcd’s till someone wins… err loses… whatever, i’m going to in-n-out.

  9. Raanne says:

    sounds like they just want to be sure that people dont start saying it tastes different just because they heard there was a new oil. I dont have a problem with this at all… basically you assume it has trans fats (because it always has) and if it doesn’t, well, your arteries will last another day longer i guess.

  10. yahonza says:

    It seems that real motivation is preventing people from doing a side by side taste comparison.

  11. suburbancowboy says:

    On one hand, people should have the right to know what they are putting into their bodies, and there should be full disclosure on products.
    On the other hand though, if you are eating at McDonald’s, you probably don’t really give a shit anyway.

  12. Red_Eye says:

    @yahonza: I have to agree with your observation. The sad part is that without independent laboratory testing I wouldn’t believe the 0 trans fat claim anyway since they are allowed to round off per serving and McDonalds can decide if a service is 5 fries or a bucket.

  13. Red_Eye says:

    @yahonza: I agree with your observation. However I wouldn’t trust any of the companies proclaiming no trans fat anyways since they can round off the amount on a per serving basis and they decide the serving size, be it 5 fries or a bucket.

    Sorry if this double posts for some reason the previous attempt never appeared despite getting the message it would post shortly.

  14. kimsama says:

    @suburbancowboy: Yeah, that’s probably pretty much the case. I doubt there will be a whole lot of the McDonald’s-buying demographic who will be thirsting for the knowledge of what particular type of artery-clogging fat their food is cooked in ^_^.

    Although casual fast-food consumers, like myself, taking a wait-until-they-convert attitude, might speed things up a little due to our reluctance to purchase food with unknown levels of transfats (or might not, depending on how many or few of them there are).

  15. Is non-disclosure of food additives even legal?

  16. Peeved Guy says:

    @suburbancowboy: My thoughts exactly. I don’t get the whole “trans fats at fast food restaurants” hype, in general, to be honest; you’re eating at McDonalds ferchristsakes! If you eat there often enough that the trans fats are adversely affecting your health, then I suspect that no matter WHAT kind of fat they switch to will be doing something nasty to your guts.

  17. B says:

    I wish they would go back to cooking the fries in lard. Those were the best tasting, and it’s certainly no worse than trans-fat as far as health is concerned. I guess it’s not vegetarian friendly, though.

  18. QuirkyRachel says:

    @jaredharley: Yes. And now we have Alli, the diet pill that seems to have similar, uh, mechanisms.

  19. ZenKnee says:

    While the article title and the tag (“The Great Oil Switch”) seem to indicate some sort of malice on the part of McD, I don’t quite see it. Like bnet41 said, this delay exists because it’s far easier to communicate with all of your customers at once than to try to handle this switch on a store-by-store basis.

  20. ThePhilMDG says:

    You know, when it’s all gone we’re gonna miss the trans fat. They’ll be nothing left to blame, we’ll have to actually start eating better…

  21. FlyDog says:

    I don’t know I’d really call the trans fat-less fries the healthy ones. Keeping on track with the coronary Russian roulette metaphor, you’re still playing the game. It’s just a question of switching from a .44 Magnum, to a .38 Special.

    You’re really just making the informed decision of do ya want a little heart attack, or a mega heart attack that looks like something out a Popeye cartoon.

  22. Optimistic Prime says:

    Why do I need healthy fires damn it! I go to McDonald’s for it’s convenience. I agree with B, go back to lard. We should take responsibility for our own actions. If I want something healthy, I’ll cook for myself…

  23. dohtem says:

    @Optimistic Prime: Healthy fires? How do you make that?

  24. Jimminy…you could all just stop eating McDonald’s fries for a year or until they make the announcement.

    Or, you know, make your own fries in peanut oil or sunflower oil or something…

  25. suburbancowboy says:

    @ Danilo Campos

    I’m no lawyer, but I would say that if full disclosure of ingredients was the law, we wouldn’t have things on packages that just say “artificial flavors” on them. What does that even mean?
    Should a product be allowed to be called “All Natural” if it has been sprayed with pesticides? Should an apple have a label with the chemicals sprayed on it? You buy “All Natural” to be healthy, and then end up eating food from South America that has been sprayed with chemicals that are banned in the U.S.
    I believe we have a right to know what is in our food.