Consumer group says potato chips should carry cancer warning

A consumer group in California is campaigning for warning labels to be placed on potato chips.

The group, the Environmental Law Foundation, say potato chips contain a chemical known to cause cancer and under California law, companies are required to warn consumers if their products contain known carcinogens.

They have filed notices with the State's attorney general against Lay's potato chip maker PepsiCo Inc., Pringles maker Procter & Gamble Co., Cape Cod potato chip maker Lance Inc. and Kettle Chips maker Kettle Foods Inc.

The notices give the attorney general's office 60 days to take up the case on behalf of all Californians. If the state declines to pursue the matter, the group says it intends to bring suit in the public interest against the companies.

The chemical, acrylamide, is formed when starchy foods are baked or fried at high temperatures. Acrylamide is listed by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment as a chemical known to cause cancer.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been studying the impact of acrylamide levels in food since 2002. On its Web site, the FDA says that, while the chemical is known to cause cancer in laboratory animals in high doses, it is "not clear whether acrylamide causes cancer in humans at the much lower levels found in food."

FDA spokesman Mike Herndon says at present they are still evaluating the effects of acrylamide.

In response PepsiCo unit Frito-Lay said it's food safety standards are very stringent and meet all federal and state regulations.

Pringles spokeswoman Kay Puryear said its products are safe and that Procter & Gamble has been working to reduce the formation of acrylamide.

Kettle Foods, and Lance declined to comment.

According to the Environmental Law Foundation, tests it commissioned found levels of acrylamide in many of the most popular potato chip brands far exceeded the levels requiring warning labels under California law.

The group say that Cape Cod Robust Russet potato chips exceeded the required warning level by 910 times, while Kettle Chips Lightly Salted chips exceeded the level by 505 times.

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