Chips may cause cancer

Acrylamide, a contaminant shown to cause cancer in animals forms in the high-temperature frying, roasting or baking of foods like potato chips and fries, coffee, and pastries, sweet biscuits, breads, rolls and toast, and may be a public health concern, according to two UN agencies.Acrylamide, a contaminant shown to cause cancer in animals forms in the high-temperature frying, roasting or baking of foods like potato chips and fries, coffee, and pastries, sweet biscuits, breads, rolls and toast, and may be a public health concern, according to two UN agencies.

Acrylamide, is formed when certain foods, rich in carbohydrates and low in protein, are cooked at temperatures higher than 120 degrees Celsius, and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) are suggesting food preparation technologies that significantly lower the acrylamide level.

The neurotoxicity of acrylamide in humans is known from instances of high occupational and accidental exposure when the contaminant is used in industrial processes in the production of plastics and other materials. Studies in animals have shown that it caused reproductive problems and cancer.

The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives and Contaminants (JECFA), in looking at possible risks of acrylamide and five other food contaminants, concluded that cancer was the most important toxic effect of acrylamide and consumption of foods with it at current levels of occurrence may be a public health concern.

There is still uncertainty about the mechanism of the toxicity of acrylamide, assumptions used to compare the most relevant animal data to the human situation, and extrapolation of the intake assessments.

The amount of acrylamide can vary considerably in the same foods depending on factors such as cooking temperature and time. This makes it impossible to issue recommendations on how much of any specific food containing the substance is safe to eat.

The food industry is looking at ways to reduce acrylamide levels in various foods.But the experts caution against major changes in food processing methods before checks are done for nutritional quality and safety, including microbiological contamination, and the possible formation of other undesirable chemicals. Consumer acceptability also has to be considered.

This research reinforces general advice on healthy eating and consumers should continue to eat balanced and varied diets, which include plenty of fruit and vegetables.

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