May 31, 2016 Nanny State of the Week
Back in 1940, Frederick Jones of Mansfield, Ohio, was facing a serious problem. He ran a small company that distributed potato chips, but his suppliers couldn’t keep up with demand.
Jones solved the problem the entrepreneurial way: he bought potatoes and oil, along with some basic equipment, and starting making his own chips to sell. He kept right on doing it, making his signature wavy cut chips for more than 40 years before turning the company over to his kids in 1986, when he retired.
JONES’ CHIPS: A staple in Mansfield, Ohio, since 1945, Jones’ potato chips will take on a different flavor because the Food and Drug Administration has banned the kind of cooking oil the company has used for 70 years.
At least, it was, until the federal government got involved. Not much has changed in potato chip technology over the years. It’s still as simple as peeling, slicing, frying, salting and packaging.
By the end of this year, Jones’ will stop making their wavy chips because new rules from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has made it impossible to get the type of cooking oil that gives the chips their distinctive flavor. That oil, partially hydrogenated cooking oil, is no longer considered safe for consumption, according to rules the FDA published last June.
“It is disappointing that we will have to change a product that we have been making for seventy years; however, we are optimistic that many of our local customers will enjoy our new products and continue to support us,” Bob Jones, president of the company,said in a statement announcing the changes to their products.
Jones says they will experiment with different kinds of legal cooking oil and will continue producing chips with soybean oil for now, but the flavor won’t be the same. For a small business that doesn’t have the same market reach as big chip makers like Lays or Wise, losing that distinct flavor could mean losing customers.
“That’s what all, or many, of our local customers have grown to love, and it’s what they expect,” Jones told local television station WMFD. “We’re doing it because the government is telling us to stop doing it.”
The FDA says the new rules for cooking oil are intended to protect Americans from making potentially dangerous decisions about what we eat and “demonstrates the agency’s commitment to the heart health of all Americans.”
But those decisions have real consequences — and the ban isn’t necessary to make people healthier.
For starters, if you don’t want to eat unhealthy food, maybe just stay away from the potato chip aisle.
And if you still want to eat chips, good news, the market has provided for you, too! Jones’ had already started making other varieties of chips using healthier oils — the company has had a line of potato chips with zero grams of trans-fat for about eight years. That’s a sensible thing to do in an age when many consumers are more conscious about their health.
But the federal government decided to decide for everyone, and that means Jones’ and their customers don’t get to decide for themselves anymore.
“We don’t really have a choice. Some people say ‘don’t do it, change back, fight the government,’” Jones said. “Those are things I can’t do.”
Few people can. The Nanny State wins again.