Yes, Mr. Wilson, Potato Chips are Fattening

| Bonnie Patten

I love potato chips.  The ruffled ones with a little onion dip – now that’s heaven.  But though I love potato chips dearly, they only enter our house once a year, on Super Bowl Sunday.  On this day, my kids and I plow through bags of fried potatoes until our fingers are so coated in grease that they glisten like sparkling diamonds.  This once-a-year indulgence is my methodology for not gaining 300 pounds of fat from chips.

Given the limits I go to restrict my chip intake, you can imagine my disbelief when I read that Markus Wilson (and his lawyers) had filed a class-action lawsuit in California against Frito-Lay and its parent company, PepsiCo.  The lawsuit claims that Mr. Wilson, after reading a Frito-Lay potato chips bag that said it had “0 grams Trans Fat,” believed that the chips would have “positive contributions” to his diet, and that eating the chips would not raise “the risk of diet-related disease or health-related conditions.”

Are you kidding me?  Regardless of what the bag said, Mr. Wilson, did you not know that you were about to eat a bag of fried chips?  Trying to hold off judgment, I took a look at the complaint.  Mr. Wilson alleges, among other things, that Frito-Lay makes the following claims about its chips:

  • Lay’s® potato chips are prepared with healthier oils, which are 85% unsaturated, making it a source of healthier mono- and polyunsaturated fats.
  • All of Frito-Lay’s snack chips contain 0 grams Trans Fat, are low in saturated fat, and cholesterol-free.
  • You might be surprised at how much good stuff goes into your favorite snack.  Good stuff like potatoes, which naturally contain vitamin C and essential minerals.
  • Even salt, when eaten in moderation as part of a balanced diet, provides sodium, which is essential for the body.
  • Frito-Lay snack chips contain mostly good fats.
  • Evidence suggests that snacking is inversely related to body weight and may promote a healthier diet.  Snacks may benefit special populations, including people with diabetes, children and adolescents, older adults, and pregnant women.

After confirming that Frito-Lay really does make these representations on its website (, I had to conclude that PepsiCo really is trying to pimp (oops, I mean market) its chips as “healthy.”  Only in the tiny ingredients label do you learn that for every 50 grams of chips you consume, you’re also ingesting 13 grams of fat.  In the end, it appears that Frito-Lay and Mr. Wilson deserve one another.

Bonnie Patten

Bonnie, executive director of, is an attorney and mother of three. Her commitment to educating the public about deceptive marketing stems from her belief that education is the only…

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