An Open Letter to McDonald’s Canada

My relationship with McDonald’s goes back 30 years.

When I was a small child, I had birthday parties in the playroom. I remember being four years old, and having a party in the McDonald’s Caboose.

When I was 6 and 7, my family went to McDonald’s for pizza.When I was 13 and 14, I went to McDonald’s after school, for ice cream with my friends.

Every school sports day, every field trip, every trip away. Any time I wanted to be a Big Girl and go to get food without my mum. Any time I want to be a Regular Girl, and go to get food without asking to speak to the kitchen, to read an ingredients list. Any time I wanted to feel normal. Any time I wanted to eat without fear.

And on and on, into my adult life, my relationship with McDonald’s continued.

I looked forward to the Holiday Menu with glee. I tried every special “limited release” sandwich. When I wanted a treat, I went for a cheeseburger. When travelling abroad, I sought out McDonald’s, knowing I could eat there without the hurdle of navigating a language barrier. With surprise and delight, I devoured the danishes and croissants, thrilled I had a place where I could buy pastries. At our wedding, my husband and I had McDonald’s burgers and nuggets brought in as a late night snack.

I would have happily continued this relationship with McDonald’s Canada for the rest of my life.

Today, with a press release that came as a real and genuine shock, McDonald’s Canada announced that they are no longer nut safe. Not only are they serving a new McFlurry flavour made with Skor, they will no longer make an effort to avoid cross contamination with nuts in their kitchen. The peanuts they used to offer with Sundaes were previously sealed in little plastic packets, ensuring that they did not contaminate the kitchen. Now, for the first time, they will have unpackaged nuts. McDonald’s has issued a blanket warning that any of their items may come in contact with allergens — nuts, peanuts or tree nuts — at any time.

This is not a case of there being some items at McDonald’s that I can no longer eat. This means I will never be able to go to McDonald’s again.

With this announcement, they are not taking care” of the needs of customers with allergies; they are banning us.

This is devastating to me. McDonald’s was more than a fast food option, it was a safe place for me to eat. In my day to day, there are so few nut free options; every restaurant, every meal out, is a struggle. Few people understand what it is like to worry about accidental death every time you sit down to a meal with your friends, but it is a real worry for an anaphylactic. At McDonald’s, I never had to worry.

I have gotten over” this sort of loss before. Countless treats from my childhood now plaster themselves with allergen warnings. Other places I used to visit, like Dairy Queen, I have not been welcome in for years. But this loss is more keenly felt than the others. Because previously, when some other treat was taken away, I knew I could still go to McDonalds for my ice-cream, for my cheeseburgers, for fries on a late night walk home. Now that certainty is gone.

Yes, I will get over this too. There are other fast food options, and I will make do. Not without making one last plea, however. A final plea for McDonald’s to reconsider what this means not only to me, but to children all over Canada who are living with anaphylaxis. Who struggle at school lunches and bake sales, but who got to go to McDonald’s after soccer games, and high school plays, and with their parents as a Sunday treat. Children for whom McDonald’s was the only option, the only place they were allowed to go. Who went to McDonald’s to feel normal.

If you take away our ability to eat at your restaurants, you rob us of something so rare and precious to us anaphylactics — a safe food space. All for the sake of a McFlurry flavour. Another option for those who already have so many.

Please, reconsider.

January 17, 2017