Food

In The '90s, Fat-Free Chips Were Hailed As A Miracle - Until The Stomach Aches Started

During the low-fat fad of the 1990s, Procter & Gamble believed it had attained the holy grail of low-fat yet flavorful snacks. P&G's fat substitute olestra was rebranded "Olean" and licensed to food manufacturers to use in chips and cookies. Unfortunately, for many consumers, olestra's side effects included nausea, flatulence, diarrhea, and what will forever go down in history as "anal leakage." Some people reportedly experienced such terrible side effects from eating olestra-laced products like Frito-Lay's WOW! chips and fat-free Pringles that the FDA required any food company using Olean to post warning labels about potential gastrointestinal issues on the packaging.

After several varieties of WOW! Olean chips debuted in 1996, olestra went from a miracle food to the butt of jokes in less than a year. "Anal leakage" became a '90s catchphrase, finding its way into comedy routines for years. Between the warning labels and consumers sharing horrifying experiences, sales of olestra products soon plummeted. The FDA eventually lifted the label requirement, and still allows food manufacturers to use Olean in their food items. The fat substitute has since been reformulated by P&G and may not cause the same gastrointestinal difficulties as before. Still, the original failure of olestra, and the fat-free trend generally, became one of the more embarrassing legacies of the '90s.