CSPI Warns Consumers About Frito-Lay “Light” Chips with Olestra

“WOW!” Chips Have New Name, But Same Old Side Effects, Says CSPI


The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) today warned consumers that Frito-Lay’s “Light” snack chips are fried in the infamous, diarrhea-inducing fake fat known as olestra. Formerly known as WOW! chips, the rebranded products are now called Lays’s Light, Ruffles Light, Doritos Light, and Tostitos Light. CSPI says the move increases the odds that unwitting consumers will experience the cramps, diarrhea, bleeding, stained underwear, or incontinence associated with olestra.

Today CSPI sent nearly 300 individual reports of olestra-related adverse reactions to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA had already received more than 20,000 such reports—more than for any other food additive in history. Most of the reports involve diarrhea, gas, and cramps. Several of the recent victims sought emergency-room treatment, including a 33-year-old Georgia woman who experienced severe cramping and diarrhea after eating olestra-containing Ruffles chips. Several victims reported embarrassing episodes of fecal incontinence in the workplace; one 19-year-old man became incontinent on a date.

“If you’re going to buy Lay’s Light, Ruffles Light, or Doritos Light, you also might want to stock up on Cottonelle, Quilted Northern, or Charmin—and plan not to stray too far from the bathroom,” CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson said. “Frito-Lay should have rebranded these chips as ‘OW!’ chips. This sudden name change is just a desperate attempt to revive a dying brand. Frito-Lay should have just pulled the plug altogether.”

One 25-year-old woman from South Bend, Ind., recently ate some Ruffles Light Cheddar & Sour Cream potato chips and reported severe diarrhea, gas, and nausea. “I did not notice until after reading the ingredients and having severe intestinal problems [that] olestra was in the ingredients,” she wrote on CSPI’s web-based complaint form. “My reaction was severely unpleasant.”

In August 2003 the FDA dropped its requirement for a warning label on packages of olestra-containing chips. The label had read, “This product contains Olestra. Olestra may cause abdominal cramping and loose stools. Olestra inhibits the absorption of some vitamins and other nutrients. Vitamins A, D, E and K have been added.” In May of this year, the FDA approved olestra for use in microwave popcorn, though no popcorn makers have begun using it.

“I threw away all my WOW! products,” wrote one 42-year-old woman from Dearborn, MI. “The pain was extreme.”

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