Have you seen the jars of Cheese Whiz on the stores of your grocery store? This product, which is sold by craft foods, can best be described as a very thick processed cheese that is artificial in nature. Sometimes seen more as a cheese spread rather than a sauce, it has been on store shelves in the United States since 1952, hitting the national scene a year later. It’s orange and today is sold in Venezuela, Mexico, Canada, and the Philippines in addition to the US.
The invention of this food product is credited to a food scientist named Edwin Traisman. Throughout much of his life, Traisman was focused on the processes of how to eliminate E. coli bacteria from the foods that we all eat. He’s also the inventor of something many people eat all over the world today.
Edwin Traisman Also Invented McDonald’s French Fries
Edwin Traisman was born in 1915 and was the only one of the six children that his Latvian parents had that was able to graduate from high school. He went on to study chemistry at the University of Illinois and graduated with a degree in 1936.
After the successes that Traisman saw with his work for Kraft Foods, he didn’t have many worries about being financially secure. While thinking about lunch one day, he saw a long line behind a McDonald’s restaurant in Illinois in 1957 and wondered what made the restaurant so popular. He soon found out that it was the fries that were being made.
As Traisman investigated the French fries, he realized that they really could be a hit with the general public, but they couldn’t just be a seasonal item like they were at that moment. There needed to be a way to create a supply of potatoes that could last all year. It was then that he realized there was the possibility that the fries could be cooked in deep oil and then frozen immediately afterward. This would allow them to be shipped safely to all McDonald’s restaurants throughout the country.
Traisman invested in four franchises in the restaurant chain, took them into Wisconsin, and helped to create the dominant organization that McDonald’s is today.
Traisman Also Had a Bit of a Rebellious Streak
Once Traisman had his franchises firing on all cylinders thanks to his shipping process that allowed fries to be shipped frozen, but still cook up crispy, he knew that he needed to do what was right for business. In this decade period when he owned the Wisconsin McDonald’s franchises, he routinely violated company policy and hired women to work at his restaurants.
Traisman decided to sell his franchises in the 1970’s and return to his first love: food. He joined with the UW-Madison and became director of their Food Research Institute. His research there contributed to the control and elimination of harmful bacteria that can cause bleeding in the digestive tract and his discovery that cooking meat to certain temperatures eliminates the bacteria without other potential risks.
The next time you sit down to have a hamburger, eat a corn dog with Cheese Whiz, or invest a little to have a treat of French fries at McDonald’s, take a moment to thank Edwin Traisman. Without him, you might not be enjoying those food products.
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