Mrs. Fisher’s battles through recipe change

By Scot Bertram 
Illinois News Network

A U.S. Food and Drug Administration ban on partially hydrogenated oils is forcing an Illinois potato chip maker to make big changes.

Rockford-based Mrs. Fisher’s Chips has been using the oil in its products for decades. Chris Spiess, company vice president, says it helped make Mrs. Fisher’s stand out from the crowd.

“The partially hydrogenated oil portion gave a unique flavor to our chip,” Spiess said. “It gave a heaviness to it and a full-hearted taste to it. When you bite into a nationwide brand potato chip, it’s light and very easy to crumble. That shortening helped give [our chip] that stout ability to it and it was unlike anything else.”

The FDA issued the ban in 2015, giving food manufacturers three years to comply. According to a statement, officials determined that “partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), the primary dietary source of artificial trans fat in processed foods, are not ‘generally recognized as safe’ for use in human food.”

Mrs. Fisher’s has been adjusting their chip recipe since the ruling and customers are noticing a difference.

“So far, initially, they were quite in shock,” Spiess said. “Being the size of our company, we don’t have the luxury of a big R&D [research & development] department. It’s three or four of us in the back, just trying different ratios of oils and such to find the perfect combination.”

Officials at the 85-year-old company are hoping customers understand this change is not being made by choice.

“This is something that we didn’t want to have happen,” Spiess said. “This mandate was handed down by much higher-ups in the federal government so there’s not much we can do on it. Just bear with us as we go through this growing pain of trying to adapt to something different.”

Spiess says the company will try to avoid passing any added costs on to the customer.

Mrs. Fisher’s is one of the oldest chip manufacturers in the Midwest, employing about a dozen people at its Rockford factory.

“Our hope is within the next couple of weeks we should find something that is our final recipe that hopefully we will continue to use, unchanged, for a number of years,” Spiess said. “But with the way ‘Big Brother’ is, you never know.”

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