BuzzFeed News visited a Chick-fil-A restaurant in New York City and found a letter stating the change in English and Spanish near the food collection area.
“Food safety and quality are our top priorities. We take great care to adhere to strict food safety procedures,” the spokesperson wrote in an email. “Customers with a sesame allergy may choose to order a gluten-free bun that does not contain sesame ingredients. There are no sesame seeds in bread products such as tortillas, English muffins, mini yeast rolls and biscuits in the breakfast menu.”
Lauren, 35, who told BuzzFeed News she prefers to keep her last name a secret, has a son who is allergic to sesame and has had anaphylactic reactions to it, as well as peanuts and tree nuts. He said his family had been eating Chick-fil-A at movie nights at least once a week for the past three years and had prepared dinner for his son’s school parties. His son’s last anaphylactic reaction, nearly three years ago, left him with PTSD and anxiety.
Lauren said the general manager at her local Chick-fil-A said that although the company’s website states that the food is prepared, the restaurant cannot guarantee that any product is safe from cross-contact.following procedures to avoid allergen cross-contact, but products containing wheat, egg, soy and milk are all made in our kitchens.”
When Lauren asked about “clean gloves” in an email, she wrote that she was told the manager’s staff “wouldn’t do that.” “Fun fact: I’ve written ‘clean gloves, food allergies’ on every order for over three years and the staff said it would be adhered to.” (Requiring restaurant workers to wear clean gloves when handling food is a common approach for people who want to avoid an allergen.)
“I am incredibly heartbroken for so many people right now. This was the only restaurant for most of us where we felt comfortable eating out,” Lauren said.
A spokesperson for Wendy’s said the company updated its nutritional and allergen information to include sesame before the FASTER Act went into effect, but didn’t immediately answer questions about how long sesame has been an ingredient.
“We take food safety and allergen issues very seriously,” the company said in a statement. “On our current national menu in the US, our Homestyle French Toast Sticks and our premium and affordable buns feature sesame flour as ingredients. Our menu is constantly evolving and our most up-to-date ingredient and allergen information can be found at: wendys.com and Wendy’s mobile app.”
website, many products, for example cheeseburger, baconand Crispy Chicken Sandwichcontains sesame or sesame flour and lists sesame as an allergen. other products like Chicken NuggetsThe ingredient list warns “cooked in the same oil as menu items that contain wheat, milk, eggs, soy, sesame, and fish.”
Sources told BuzzFeed News that they have so far not seen sesame-related associations in any of Wendy’s products, only checking the company’s website after private conversations with other “allergy people” uncovered the changes.
Also, on each product page, Wendy’s states: “We provide known allergen samples; however, cross-contact is possible due to communal processing and preparation areas in our restaurants. We cannot guarantee that any menu item is completely allergen-free. Customers with allergies and sensitivities should decide when ordering.”
Adrienne Cardon, 39, and the mother of an 8-year-old with more than a dozen food allergies that can cause anaphylaxis, including sesame, wonder how things would be different if companies announced they were adding peanuts to their products. She said Wendy’s was the only fast-food restaurant her son could eat at.
“This is the opposite of corporate responsibility. This is the opposite of inclusiveness. This is corporate laziness and malfeasance,” Cardon said.
Cardon admits that Wendy’s is more of a convenience for her family than a need, but she worries about families who will be disproportionately affected by the move, including those who depend on fast food for their children’s nutritional needs.
“2022! We can make meatless ‘meat’, egg-free ‘omelets’, gluten-free baguettes and dairy-free ice cream, but can’t these fast-food giants find a baker who can bake a sesame-free bun?
Laura Smathers, 40, has two daughters with life-threatening food allergies, one of which is sesame. Finding safe places to eat out “has been a monumental task over the past 13 years,” She said. She is so heavily dependent on Chick-fil-A, especially when traveling, that she has come to countless restaurants and even weddings with bags of Chick-fil-A to help her kids avoid allergic reactions.
“Needless to say, no one in our community could have imagined that this new law would deliver a devastating blow, rather than the reassurance and clarity we seek,” said Smathers. “This reaction to the labeling law is inexcusable. It’s heartbreaking that nothing has changed with these recipes, but these companies are choosing to endanger millions of Americans with sesame allergies and make their facilities and products something we should avoid in order to keep our loved ones safe.
“It was a devastating loss, to say the least,” he said.