The Real Reason McDonald's French Fries Taste Different Now

Many longtime lovers of the Golden Arches may have noticed that the french fries today don't taste like the french fries of their youth. If so, you likely have a discerning palette because there have been subtle changes in the ingredients. These changes haven't taken much away from the crispy-on-the-outside, fluffy-on-the-inside potato treat, and there are still many fans of the deep-fried goodness. Says one fan, "McDonald's fries are my weakness" (via Instagram).

While the potatoes have been pretty consistent, the oil the potatoes have been cooked in has changed over time. One change occurred in 2007, switching to a new trans-fat-free vegetable-based oil (via CBS News). In 2002, the french fry giant tried an iteration of a healthier oil with a soy-corn base described as having less trans fat and more polyunsaturated fat, but there were additional changes in the '90s that had a stronger effect on flavor (via SF Gate). Namely, when the company switched from its original blend of 7 percent cottonseed oil and 93 percent beef tallow to a vegetable-based fryer oil.

Vegetable oil is supposed to be made of vegetables

McDonald's in the '90s was a household go-to. Xennial children might remember reciting the menu as a playground rhyme: "Big Mac, Filet-O-Fish, Quarter Pounder, french fries, icy Coke, Thick Shake, sundaes, and apple pies," (via YouTube). These potatoes were suddenly rocked by scandal, however, as people discovered that McDonald's had been using a "secret" ingredient – beef. 

It's important to remember that french fries are typically "fried" in some type of vegetable oil. In the '90s and earlier, the oil used in the fryers was flavored with essence of beef (via CBS News). While this ingredient wasn't exactly kept under wraps, it also wasn't a fact clearly communicated with customers. Plant-based food eaters were outraged, and the Hindu community was especially horrified. For a culture that holds cows as sacred, accidentally eating beef is no laughing matter. 

In 2002, the corporation settled a lawsuit by agreeing to donate $10 million to Hindu causes and has since kept their vegetarian items vegetarian. "We regret we did not provide these customers with complete information, and we sincerely apologize for any hardship that these miscommunications have caused among Hindus, vegetarians and others," said McDonald's spokespersons.

As for the taste – different isn't always bad.