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The History of Crisco

After William Procter and James Gamble worked with a chemist to create a hydrogenation process in the early 1900s, they started using hydrogenated cottonseed oil to make P&G's soap. Then they decided to use that same hydrogenated oil to create a kitchen product. Procter & Gamble debuted their new invention, Crisco, in 1911. Notably, it was the first food product to include partially-hydrogenated oil. Using marketing techniques and testimonials, they successfully promoted Crisco as a healthier, kosher alternative to lard and butter that could be used for baking and frying. However, the qualities that made hydrogenation so appealing (such as the ability to make liquid oils solid and spreadable, and an increased product shelf life) relied on trans fats. While trans fats were originally thought to be heart-healthy, studies conducted in the mid-1990s showed high consumption of trans fats to be harmful to human health. As a result, trans fats started to be phased out in the 2000s. Crisco responded by changing its formula to include less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving, a small enough amount that the FDA allows a claim of “0g trans fat per serving” to appear on the label. Other changes have also been made. P&G sold Crisco to the J.M. Smucker Company in 2002, at which point many new products were added to the Crisco brand lineup. However, the term “Crisco” is still synonymous with the famous spread, which continues to be a kitchen staple for many people today.

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