The "Truth" About Pringles Potato Chips

From the Mailbag

How are Pringles potato chips made?
An Internet rumor claims that Pringles snack chips are made from discarded McDonald's french fries. Juanmonino/E+/Getty Images

Dear Urban Legends:

My mom got suckered — she was told (and believed) that Pringles potato chips are made from McDonald's unsold fries (you know, they stayed under the heat lamp, got old, and were used to make Pringles).

I came looking at your site hoping to find a rebuttal, but no such luck. So, I thought I would submit the story for you to add, verify or deny, etc.


Dear Reader:

It's hard to imagine a more perfect premise for an urban legend about junk food — the notion that some of the stuff is really just recycled fast food!

This is one way we express our profound — though largely self-ignored — misgivings about the unwholesome crap we eat these days.

It makes for fantastic folklore, but I wouldn't suggest buying a word of this clever story.

Are Pringles made from "unserved" french fries?

According to the above-linked website — which appears to be largely devoted to downloadable jokes and pranks, please note — "McDonald's carefully collects unserved french fries and places them into specially-created dehydrators. The remains are then flaked and placed into airtight containers which are then shipped to Pringles factories all over the world."

From dehydrating the fries to storing them in airtight containers to shipping them all over the world, all that special handling would have to cost plenty. The resulting "french fry flakes" would surely be at least as pricey as raw, unprocessed potatoes in the end, if not more.

Moreover, extrapolating from McDonald's own nutritional information, those discarded fries consist of about 25 percent fat by weight. If you extracted all of the moisture out of them (using one of those "specially-created dehydrators," of course) you'd have almost nothing left but fat!

I submit that even the crafty folks at Procter & Gamble (the original manufacturer of Pringles, which were first introduced to grocery store shelves in 1968) would have a hard time turning the stuff into edible potato chips.

According to a 2008 report from the BBC, the actual ingredients of Pringles are: "potato flour, corn flour, wheat starch and rice flour together with fat and emulsifier, salt and seasoning, with a potato content of about 42%." The spuds actually used in the manufacture of Pringles (in the form of "potato flour") are, in fact, dehydrated, but they're not fast food cast-offs.

So what does McDonald's do with its stale french fries? For the answer to that, look no further than the dumpster behind the McDonald's location nearest you.

Further reading:

You Don't Just Eat 'Em
Official Pringles website (the Kellogg Company)

Pringles 'Are Not Potato Crisps'
BBC News, 4 July 2008

Pringles Patent

How It's Made: Pringles (Video)

Last updated 10/28/15