Frito-Lay, a subsidiary of PepsiCo, is facing legal action because it does not put warning labels on light potato chips that contain the fat substitute olestra.

Consumer group, the Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), are supporting the case of Lori Perlow, a Massachusetts woman who claims she experienced stomach problems after eating Ruffles Light potato chips. 

Not only does CSPI claim that the company has failed to alert customers to the presence of the fat substitute, it also accuses Frito-Lay of deliberately misleading consumers when it rebranded its ‘WOW’ chips as ‘light’.

“It’s bad enough that Frito-Lay still uses this discredited and dangerous chemical, one of the most infamous food additives in history,” said CSPI litigation director Steve Gardner. “But by quietly changing the name of this product line and purposefully deemphasizing the presence of olestra, Frito-Lay is really tricking consumers.”

Frito-Lay strongly denies these accusations. A spokesperson for the company, Aurora Gonzalez, told just-food today (5 January) that the company goes to extreme lengths to be transparent in its packaging. The presence of olestra is indicated by a logo on the front of the package, it is listed as an ingredient on the back, and its use is specified on the company website.

Gonzalez said, the company was careful to alert customers of the change of name from WOW to light chips and a sticker informing consumers of the name change was included on the packaging.

In 1996 the FDA determined that safety was not an issue in the consumption of olestra. CSPI want the FDA to revisit this decision.