Crispy French fries and crunchy potato chips were never health foods, what with all the calories, fat and salt. But consumers just got a reminder that there's one more thing to worry about when they indulge in such foods: a chemical called acrylamide that might cause cancer.
For more than a decade, scientists have known that acrylamide forms when potatoes, cereal grains and some other plant foods are browned through frying, baking or roasting. That means it shows up in fries, chips, breakfast cereals, toasted bread, cookies, crackers and even coffee. Studies show the chemical can cause cancer in rodents at high doses. In humans, the cancer risk remains unclear, but health agencies around the world are concerned and calling for more study.
Last week, the Food and Drug Administration took the latest step to address the potential risk when it released draft guidelines for the food industry. For example, FDA is urging potato growers to favor low-sugar varieties that produce less acrylamide and urging processors to decrease frying temperatures, tweak ingredients and avoid certain storage practices. Even cutting thicker fries and chips can help, FDA says.