In 2007 total world production of potatoes was more than 320 million tonnes, and about 2/3 were consumed by people as food. The other 1/3 is used as animal feed, and as potato starch in pharmaceuticals, textiles, adhesives, and in the wood & paper industries, etc.
In 2005, it is estimated that 11 million tonnes of factory made french fries were produced world-wide.
One of the earliest references we have to British 'chips' (French Fries in the U.S.) is in Charles Dicken's 'Tale of Two Cities' (1859): "husky chips of potatoes, fried with some reluctant drops of oil."
One of the early references to 'French fried potatoes' was in 1894 in O. Henry's 'Rolling Stones', “Our countries are great friends. We have given you Lafayette and French fried potatoes.”
As of 7/2/2006, the earliest reference I am aware of is from the 1882 ‘Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book.’
Some believe that the 'French' in French fries refers to the method of cutting the potatoes (to 'french' means to slice into thin strips). This view is not widely accepted, and is most likely not true.
Americans eat more than 16 pounds of french fries every year, which comes to over 2 million tons!
Both France and Belgium claim that they invented 'French Fries'. Belgians claim that their street vendors sold these 'Belgian fries' from pushcarts before the French adapted the idea in the middle of the 19th century. They crossed the Atlantic to America in the 1880s.
McDonald's uses about 7% of the potatoes grown in the United States for its French fries. They sell more than 1/3 of all the French fries sold in restaurants in the U.S. each year.
The French fries sold at McDonald's are peeled, sliced and partially cooked at factories in Idaho.