January 16, 2018

Study: No Health Concerns in Food Tested for Acrylamide

A study conducted by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency found that some high carbohydrate foods did not have acrylamide levels at levels that “would be considered unsafe for consumption.” The agency tested 897 high carb food samples from Canadian retail stores, including dried fruits and vegetables, crackers, condiments, soup powder, taco seasonings, molasses, syrups, adult and infant breakfast cereals, and nut butters. The lowest levels of acrylamides were observed in jams, while the highest average acrylamide levels were found in molasses, at 901 ppb.

French FriesAcrylamides are chemicals used for industrial purposes, used to make paper, dyes, and plastics. The chemical is formed in foods heated to temperatures above 248°F. The foods that produce the most acrylamides are potato chips and French fries.

When high carb foods are cooked at high temperatures, asparagine, an amino acid, combines with sugars to form acrylamide. Dry heat methods of cooking, such as frying, baking, and broiling produce more acrylamides, while microwaving, slow cooking, braising, and boiling are less likely to produce the chemical. Decreasing cooking time and blanching potatoes before frying can reduce acrylamide levels somewhat. Drying potatoes after frying by placing them in a hot oven can also reduce acrylamide levels.

The World Health Organization has stated that acrylamide levels in foods are a “major concern” because they may increase the risk of developing cancer. A study conducted in Holland found a “small, but significantly increased risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer associated with acrylamide intake.” A second study found a statistically significant positive result between “hemoglobin markers for acrylamide and estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer.” But the National Cancer Institute says that although acrylamides increase the risk of some types of cancer, evidence so far is “incomplete.”

It is interesting that the study did not test potato chips and French fries. A 2002 FDA list of acrylamide levels in foods found that levels in French fries can be as high as 1300 ppb, while potato chips levels can be as high as  2700 ppb. Health Canada advises consumers to “eat fried or deep-fried foods such as French fries and potato chips less often, while enjoying a variety of foods.” There are currently no guidelines regulating the use of acrylamide in food itself, but there are regulations on amounts in drinking water and in objects that can come into contact with food.

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