How One Man Changed How McDonald’s Cooks Their Fries

In 1966, self-made millionaire Phil Sokolof was a fast-food junkie, dining at McDonald’s nearly every day. At the age of 43, he had a heart attack. His cholesterol had reached 300, way over the 222 normal level at that time, and he was forced to go on cholesterol-lowering medication. The heart attack came as a total shock to Sokolof. “I was thin. I did the Royal Canadian Air Force exercises every day. I ran a mile every day — in under 7 minutes. My blood pressure was low. I didn’t smoke. I knew how to handle stress. I had a wonderful wife and happy marriage. I was a millionaire many times over.” His downfall was that he loved hamburgers and fries. After recovering from the heart attack and bringing his cholesterol level down to 150, Sokolof sold his company, Philips Manufacturing Co., to devote all of his time to his anti-cholesterol crusade. He generated national attention by buying full-page ads in newspapers around the country, heralding “McDonald’s, Your Hamburgers Have Too Much Fat!” and “We Can’t Continue To Deep-Fry Our Children’s Health.” As a result, McDonald’s stopped frying their fries in beef tallow, switching to a lower-fat cooking oil. It wasn’t long before other fast-food chains followed suit. Sokolof spent about $15 million on his crusade over two decades to spur Americans to eat healthier foods.