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Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Great Japan Potato-Chip Crisis: Panic Buying, $12 Bags (bloomberg.com)

Demand for potato chips has surged in Japan this week, with products on offer for 6 times their retail price online after Japanese snack company Calbee halted the sale of some of its most popular chip brands. From a report:

Calbee's pizza-flavored chips were going for about 1,250 yen ($12) on Yahoo Japan Corp.'s auction website Friday. One bag usually sells for less than 200 yen.

 Photos of near-empty shelves at their local supermarkets were trending on Twitter. The crunch came after Calbee warned on Monday that it will temporarily halt the sale of 15 types of potato chips due to a bad crop in Hokkaido, a key potato-producing region. 

The northern island was hit by a record number of typhoons last year. Calbee, which has a market value of 507.9 billion yen and is 20 percent-owned by PepsiCo Inc., has a 73 percent market share of potato chips. 

 Potato chips are a big deal in Japan, a country also known for its senbei rice crackers and Pocky sticks. Calbee's potato-snack products were the most and second-most popular snacks in a TV Asahi poll of 10,000 people and 13 confectionery makers last year, and the subject of a primetime show that lasted more than two hours.


Weight Gain. Chips are typically high in fat and calories, which can raise the risk of weight gain and obesity. One ounce of plain potato chips, or about 15 to 20 chips, contains about 10 grams of fat and 154 calories. ... Being overweight or obese raises the risk of diabetes, heart disease and some forms of cancer.


Butylhydroxytoluene, commonly known as BHT, is frequently used by the food industry to prevent rancidity in packaged baked goods and snacks. This fat-soluble chemical is also used in petroleum products, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. Eleanor Ross Whitney and Sharon Rady Rolfes explain in their textbook "Understanding Nutrition" that BHT can cause cancer when consumed in high amounts. The amounts of BHT needed to induce cancer would not be ingested under normal circumstances, but if you want to avoid any exposure to cancer-causing chemicals, choose one of the many varieties of chips that are preservative-free.

 “A lot of those preservatives and yellow dyes have been directly linked to different cancers, and they feed cancers,” says Dr. Scott Weiss, Co-Founder and Clinical Director of Bodhizone Physical Therapy and Wellness, who recommends baked or kettle-cooked potato chips.

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