Social Problems Process & The McDonald’s Example

When was the last time you ate McDonald’s?


Portrait of Phil Sokolof


Phil Sokolof showed that the new French fries fried in vegetable oil, was healthier than the old French fries that were fried in animal fat due to the high amounts of saturated fats.


People were consuming too much saturated fat and that was leading to heart attacks.

Consumption of Saturated Fat

“A Big Mac is equal to the amount of saturated fats you should be consuming in one day.”

“The old French fries were 95% animal fat.”


Picture representing the beef tallow that was used in the original French fries.

Additional Grounds:

Most people are suffering from heart problems after consuming large amounts of saturated fats.

Victims: McDonald’s customers and anyone eating at fast food restaurants.

Villains: McDonald’s

The range of people affected is everyone eating at fat food restaurants, especially McDonald’s.


Sokolof is asking if people want to have a heart attack like him.


Big Mac Attack 

A Big Mac is consuming enough saturated fat for one day, would you want to eat that?


People should convert to vegetable instead of animal fat when frying.


Frame Alignment:

Transformation is calling on supporters to reject the familiar worldview that they take for granted and adopt a new one. He used transformation to show people that vegetable oil is less in saturated fats than animal fat, and this leads to less people having heart issues.

Resource Mobilization:

He relied on people listening to his story and understanding his issues.

Phil Sokolof was successful because he used his personal story to back his claim, research that proved his claim was a fact, and was able to justify his reasoning.

Sokolof took advantage of a cultural opportunity. He was able to use his story and the change in McDonald’s fries to show how the old fries were leading to health issue. McDonald’s saw Sokolof’s view as a threat and decided to change their fries so that they did not lose money.


The anatomical visual of a heart attack

He gained ownership over the issue of saturated fats in French fries, because he was able to get McDonald’s to change the way they were cooking their fries. His claim allowed all fast food restaurants to change the way they cooked their foods.

I think Sokolof’s claim was beneficial because it brought to light how the cooking techniques of fast food restaurants are bad, but when it came to the Ramsden’s study his claim about saturated fats was not technically right when it came to health.

Social Problems Process



Media Coverage 

Public Reaction 


Social Problems Work

Policy Outcomes  



Phil Sokolof looking at the adds he paid for.  


McDonald’s being sued over French fries.


“Pictured is McDonald’s restaurant pioneer Dick McDonald, third from left, with (L to R) Chuck Ebeling, Dot McDonald,  and Dick Starman.”


Analyzing Science 

The “traditional diet-heart hypothesis” that Ivan Frantz set out to investigate predicts that the serum cholesterol lowering effect of replacing saturated fat with vegetable oil rich in linoleic acid will diminish deposition of cholesterol in the arterial wall.

The evidence that supports this hypothesis shows that replacement of saturated fat in the diet with linoleic acid effectively lowers serum cholesterol but does not support the hypothesis that this translates to a lower risk of death from heart disease findings from Minnesota.

Ramadan’s research team decided to re-evaluate the proven hypothesis about the traditional diet-heart because his original hypothesis was that it was supposed to lower deaths, but the acid that they were using was actually increasing the deaths.

The initial question being asked in the Minnesota Coronary Experiment (MCE) is “Effects of dietary change on human cardiovascular disease.”

The MCE team set out to test whether the dietary intervention reduced coronary heart disease events and deaths in the total population.

Serum Cholesterol Lowering Diet

They started eating food with lower cholesterol such as: Salad dressings, filled beef (lean ground beef with added oil), filled milk, and filled cheeses. Soft corn oil polyunsaturated margarine was used in place of butter.

Control Diet

Common margarines and shortenings were key components of the control diet, making the daily per participant allocation from the state of Minnesota adequate to cover the full costs. It did not change the saturated fat intake but did substantially increase linoleic acid intake (by about 38%, from 3.4% to 4.7% of calories).

The serum cholesterol lowering diet was more in line with what we have learned to be “healthier foods” in our daily lives.

The MCE intervention lowered serum cholesterol because it would take a substantial time to identify lowering serum cholesterol in the body. It went down -13.8%. The patients remained in the hospital for too short of time to get real results.

This increased the risk of death, because of the liquids that were used.

The change in serum cholesterol related to the risk of death did not change, people aren’t dying in large groups, but they are still dying from the same diseases. It depends on the person and if they followed the diet. It didn’t reduce death in fact people were dying faster, but it was good for cholesterol levels.

At first vegetable oils were thought to be better for the body, but in the end, it was worse for the body. The acid would reduce cholesterol, but it lowered life span.

Ivan Frantz Jr. did not publish his results because he was wrong, science can be wrong and isn’t always right.

They wanted people to be healthy, and people wanted it to be cheap, they spend their money on healthier food. It was a cheap fix.

He thought it was better for people to know and people could have done more research into the fact. We would do this if it was helping people. It proves science is not always right.

The Frantz and Ramsden studies fall into all of the categories of science because physical and biological are the research behind the experiment and social is the different opinions and theories behind it.

Based on the category of science, it’s not always bad to get a second opinion because doctors are humans too and they make mistakes. Research isn’t always right and possibly changes every day.

Ivan is probably biased because of what his father did to him, testing his blood every month to check cholesterol levels. He knew that checking your blood every month didn’t have anything to do with heart disease.


Ramsed C., Zamora D., Majchrzak-Hong S., Faurot K., Broste S., Frantz R., Davis J, Ringel A., Suchindran C., Hibbeln J., Re-evaluation of the traditional diet-heart hypothesis: analysis of recovered data from Minnesota Coronary Experiment (1986-73)BMJ2016;353:i1246 19 Feb 2016.


What high cholesterol looks like in the artery

Making a New Claim

Do you really know what is in your food?  


Would you like beef in your fries?

Our audience is the students, faculty, and staff of Newberry College. We are trying to convince our audience that people generally aren’t aware of what is in their food and how it affects their body. What we think is healthy, may be harmful in the long run. This will mostly be directed towards athletes, who in general, are mindful with that they are putting into their bodies.


One example of this would be when McDonald’s workers began to use vegetable oil instead of beef tallow. Once the vegetable oil is heated in the fryer, the oil breaks down and ruins the oil and aldehyde forms. Aldehydes are highly flammable and combustible, which would result in worker’s clothes spontaneously combusting when they came in contact with each other. This goes to show how unstable vegetable oil is when it is heated. That is done on the clothing that the fry cooks were wearing- imagine what is happening on the inside of the body of the consumers.

Is your food killing you?

According to one statistic, for every 30-points participant’s cholesterol dropped, they were at a 22% higher risk for dying sooner.

Another statistic states that one 20-ounce soda increases your risk of heart attack by 30%, reassuring that heart disease and heart problems is not linked to saturated fats, but by sugar.

Additional Grounds:

Over the last 100 years, unsaturated fat consumption has become a growing issue; linoleic acid intake has been estimated to been around 2-3% of calories 100 years ago, but today has increased to 7% of total calorie intake.

The victims in this situation would be the consumers and the villains are the fast food industries that changed their oils.

Everyone that eats unsaturated fats are affected by this. They are led to believe that vegetable oils are a healthier option when compared to saturated fats, but people are not aware of the unintended consequences of using vegetable oils instead of beef tallow.


This is a troubling issue because this affects everyone- consumers need to be more aware of what they are consuming because there are long term consequences to these “healthier” options. Although the Minnesota study shows that eating unsaturated fats lead to lower cholesterol, it did not show that it prolonged life expectancy.

Saturated fat also was preferred over unsaturated fat when it comes to taste and quality of the product. Traditionally, McDonalds sold French fries in one size- 2.4 oz. Now, the largest size you can get is 5.9 ounces, which is more than TWICE the size of the original size. With the lower quality there is an increase in quantity, which leads to consuming more, unnecessary calories.


One way we can bring attention to our issue would be setting up a table outside Chick Fil A or the cafeteria to draw in students to our issue. There, we would have two kinds of French fries in similar baskets, one batch of fries that are fried in beef tallow and one batch that is fried in vegetable oil. Then have students try each fry, without letting them know which is which, and ask them which tasted better. We would then inform the students of the kind of oil they were fried in and give them some statistic and information on how beef tallow was used up until 1990. We would also provide them with an informational brochure about the differences between saturated and unsaturated fats and the health benefits and repercussions.

Another way we can bring attention to our issue would be setting up a table outside Chick Fil A or the cafeteria to draw in students to our issue. There, we would have two kinds of real, autopsied hearts set up for students to observe. One would be from a donor who consumed saturated fats, and one who consumed unsaturated fats. These hearts would be dissected so that the coronary artery is exposed and allow students to touch them and see the difference between the two. This would provide a visual aid to show what the different fats are doing to our bodies.

Resource Mobilization:

The resources that will be the most important to our group would be food and human hearts. This is the case because they are the sales point in our demonstrations. We need the French fries to be fried in beef tallow and vegetable oil to show the difference in taste and texture, and the human hearts to show the effect that the beef tallow and vegetable oil have on the human bodies.

Cultural Opportunity:

In this instance, cultural opportunity is when the public and individuals have an increased interest in a group’s claims prior to an event occurring. We would be able to take advantage of this cultural opportunity since more and more people are becoming concerned with what they eat and what kinds of effects that certain foods have on their bodies. We are facing a health crisis in the United States, so something needs to change in order for us to get public health back under control.

Political Opportunity:

Political opportunities to promote activist’s claims arise when the distribution of power among different groups shifts so that changes that previously would have been resisted, can now be implemented. A political opportunity that we could take advantage of would be the by gaining the public attention and hopefully gaining the support or interest of an advocate. By doing this, it could reach public office for there to be another big change in the fast food industry and the use of vegetable oil to fry foods in.




Did McDonald’s break your heart?


  1. The work that Sokolof did and the changes that he was able to make were incredible. Sokolof worked hard and addressed an issue that many people may have been afraid to confront or recognize. With hard work and determination, Sokolof was able to make changes in the context of the re-evaluation of saturated fights. His mission to try to combat high cholesterol was a very brave thing to do and he did it well.
  2. Science as a discipline is constantly changing and can change our understanding of what is problematic in many ways. Scientist and researchers continue to find more and more new information regarding foods and our body’s. Science can make a person change the way they look at a certain issue. For example, if a new study were to be released saying that cake caused cancer, many people in the world would most likely stop eating cake. Science as a discipline can make people think that certain things are more problematic than they once realized.
  3. The biggest challenge of convincing people that linoleic acid is harmful will be explaining to people that unsaturated fat (linoleic acid) is not better for you than saturated fat. Testing has proved that unsaturated fats can lead to a greater risk of heart disease than saturated fats.










Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s