Should we stop giving crisps and chips to young children?
Staple foods including bread, chips and crisps, may contain high levels of a substance believed to cause cancer, a study suggests. Tests showed they all contain high quantities of acrylamide, a chemical which is classified as a probable human carcinogen.
Researchers in Sweden found acrylamide was formed when carbohydrate-rich foods such as potatoes, rice or cereals are heated. Such foods could pose a potential health risk to millions of people around the world.
The study found that an ordinary bag of crisps may contain up to 500 times more of the substance than the top level allowed in drinking water by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Fried food risk
French fries sold at Swedish franchises of US fast-food chains contained about 100 times the one microgram per litre maximum permitted by the WHO in drinking water, the study showed. One milligram, or 0.001 gram, contains 1,000 micrograms. The US Environmental Protection Agency classifies acrylamide, a colourless, crystalline solid, as a medium hazard probable human carcinogen. Acrylamide induces gene mutations and has been found in animal tests to cause benign and malignant stomach tumours. It is also known to cause damage to the central and peripheral nervous system.
Which foods contain acrylamide?
High levels of acrylamide are found in starchy foods (foods containing complex carbohydrates, such as potatoes and cereals) that have been fried, oven-baked or microwaved,
• baked potatoes
Acrylamide is also found in coffee, formed when the coffee beans are roasted.1 Lower levels of acrylamide are found in protein-rich foods such as cooked beef and chicken. Very little or no acrylamide is found in uncooked or boiled foods.
How does acrylamide form in food? Acrylamide forms when starchy foods are cooked at temperatures of more than 100°C.Certain foods contain a substance called asparagine. When...