Concerned about our nation’s obesity problem … um, er, no that’s not right. Let me begin again: Concerned that consumers are abandoning greasy bags of chips for carrot sticks and tofu dogs, snack food giant Frito-Lay is going all Frinky in pursuit of (slightly) healthier snack foods. As Newsweek reports in the story “Taking the Junk Out of Junk Food”:

Except for the occasional oversize bag of naked Cheetos lying around (they’re not yet covered in fluorescent orange cheese flavoring), the maze of windowless rooms on the second floor of the Frito-Lay headquarters could pass for a university microbiology lab. Highly flammable beakers of globby fats are separated, broken down and measured, as scientists try to test the fat content in batches of chips. A walk-in cooler is filled with huge boxes of apples, part of something the company calls the ‘Eden Project.’ And don’t laugh: with the recent launch of Frito’s Flat Earth line of baked fruit and vegetable crisps (‘one-half serving of real vegetables in every ounce’), the company is now the nation’s largest buyer of pumpkin, a big ingredient in the snack.

[Editor’s note: Think those “veggie chips” are a healthier choice? Not really.]

Seems that eliminating trans fats from its chips, which the company did in 2002, was no longer enough to grant the chip-maker market traction now that other companies are following suit. See, though Frito-Lay’s switch to cottonseed oil removed the trans fats from the company’s chips, it ramped up the saturated fat. Other available oils had flaws: Soybean oil spoils easily, and sunflower oil is in short supply.

Or at least it was before Frito-Lay got into bed with the sunflower oil industry, spending millions to help develop a processed-food-friendly sunflower oil.

Personally, no matter what the snack food companies put in their chips, I’ll regard them as crap. But then, I prefer tamari almonds over chips any day. I tend to agree with Michael Pollan that any food with health claims on the label isn’t really food (registration required).

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