Some claims against McD's dismissed in allergen suit

CHICAGO A U.S. District Court judge has dismissed three of the five claims that were leveled against McDonald's Corp. in a lawsuit filed last year by a group of consumers who said they or their children had been sickened by gluten or dairy products purposely hidden in the burger chain's French fries and hash browns. The substances can trigger allergic reactions in people with sensitivities.

The 11 plaintiffs had also asserted that the chain provided false information in its disclosure of nutritional information.

The lawsuit was prompted early last year when McDonald’s, while launching nutritional product labeling, confirmed that its French fries have one-third more trans fats than previously reported, 20 percent more overall fat, 10 percent more calories and contain allergenic milk and wheat ingredients, including gluten. Until shortly before that admission, McDonald’s website had described the fries as safe for consumers with food allergies and as suitable “for people with gluten sensitivities.”

However, presiding judge Elaine Bucklo ruled that the plaintiffs' complaint did not give enough detail about the alleged scheme. But she let stand the suit's assertions of breach of warranty - in essence, that McDonald's had sold an unsafe product - and unjust enrichment.

The ruling is seen as a setback for the plaintiffs, who have a month to amend their complaint. McDonald's lawyers had asked the court last November to throw out the suit, characterizing the plaintiffs as a few "hypersensitive consumers with allergies." The still-pending suit sought to force McDonald's to change food product information in its advertising.

The ruling in the federal District Court here came as California and other states are considering requirements that restaurant chains post certain information on their menu boards about the nutritional content of their fare. But those measures are generally intended to address obesity, not food allergies.