No matter where in the world you live, we all use one word to describe a substance that causes cancer: tobacco. We usually associate tobacco chemicals with tobacco based products. What we call french fries in America, are called chips in the UK. No matter what you refer to them as, a new study says that when cooked at high temperatures, chips/fries contain a tobacco cancer causing chemical.
According to The Daily Mail in a new report entitled: “The cancer risk from your CHIPS: Tobacco chemical IS present in fried food cooked at high temperature, health chiefs confirm – and children are most at risk”:
Health chiefs have issued a cancer warning over eating chips and other fried food amid revelations they contain a harmful chemical that is also found in tobacco smoke.
The European Food Safety Authority yesterday published a study confirming that acrylamide (AA) – which forms when foods are cooked at a high temperature – is a cancer risk.
It warned: ‘AA forms in numerous baked or fried carbohydrate-rich foods, including French fries, potato crisps, breads, biscuits and coffee. AA is also known to be present in cigarette smoke.’
Some 51 per cent of all acrylamide exposure for children comes from chips, roast potatoes and croquettes. The EFSA findings will be used by food watchdogs across Europe as the basis of new safety advice to consumers, particularly parents.
Britain’s Food Standards Agency already advises families to cook chips only to a light golden colour and warns that ‘bread should be toasted to the lightest colour acceptable’.
It may now revisit its advice, based on the EFSA findings, with one option to advise parents to put a limit on the number of times they allow children to eat chips each week.
The EFSA said: ‘Evidence from animal studies shows that acrylamide and its metabolite glycidamide are genotoxic and carcinogenic: they damage DNA and cause cancer.
‘Since acrylamide is present in a wide range of everyday foods, this health concern applies to all consumers but children are the most exposed age group on a body weight basis.
‘The most important food groups contributing to acrylamide exposure are fried potato products, coffee, biscuits, crackers, crisp bread and soft bread.’
The FSA has conducted a number of surveys in this country and identified many big brand foods that can carry high levels of the cancer risk chemical.
It published research last autumn which found a number of frozen chips and potato products were likely to have relatively high levels of acrylamide when cooked according to the pack instructions.
These included Chunky Chips sold under Tesco Finest brand as a side dish, Organic Straight Cut Oven Chips from Waitrose, Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Crispy Roast Potatoes with Goose Fat, and Birds Eye Potato waffles.
A large number of ready to eat foods that are particular favourites with children also had higher levels as well as some breakfast cereals and even baby products.
Levels of acrylamide vary between batches based on cooking processes, temperatures and when the raw ingredients, such as potatoes, were harvested.
Acrylamide forms in starchy food products during every-day high-temperature cooking such as frying, baking, roasting and also in industrial processing, at cooking temperatures over 120C.
EFSA said the chemical is also found in tobacco smoke, adding: ‘For smokers, tobacco smoking is a more prominent source of acrylamide exposure than food.’
The watchdog has published a new scientific opinion on AA, which said studies in rats found the chemical was mainly associated with tumours in glands and the breast.
It also identified a risk to pregnant women and babies, saying: ‘AA is rapidly distributed into the tissues. AA is also able to cross the placenta and is transferred to a small extent into human milk.’
The FSA currently advises people that they do not need to change what they eat, but it says they should avoid frying, baking or toasting food to the point where it becomes too dark or crisp.
The Food & Drink Federation, which speaks for manufacturers, said the industry is taking steps to minimise levels of the chemicals. It said: ‘Food safety is of paramount importance to UK food manufacturers.’
Andrew Opie, of the British Retail Consortium, said: ‘Retailers encourage our suppliers to do everything possible to reduce acrylamide formation in the food manufacturing process and in processed food products.’
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