November 8, 2011
Are you one of those who browse the snack rack at your local convenience store looking for those “healthier” baked potato chips as opposed to the artery-clogging fried variety?
If so, you may be wasting your time.
Reports from the United States confirms that baked chips — although featuring a lower fat level — have high levels of acrylamide, a cancer-causing and potentially neurotoxic chemical.
It’s not an additive but is formed — as a general rule — when food is heated enough to produce a fairly dry and brown/yellow surface.
The research supports work in Canada and other countries that point to the chemical as being a concern.
According to U.S. Food and Drug Administration data on acrylamide levels in foods, baked chips may contain more than three times the level of acrylamide as regular chips.
Same holds true when you bake French fries in your oven hoping to avoid the issues of deep fat frying. That golden-brown hue contains acrylamide.
A lot of bake goods, such as toasted bread and cereal, contain the chemical but chips are notoriously high.
So high, in fact, that in 2005 the State of California actually sued potato-chip makers for failing to warn California consumers about the health risks of acrylamide in their products.
A settlement was reached when the chip makers agreed to reduce the dangerous level of the drug, thus avoiding a cancer warning label.
Health Canada scientists were among the first to demonstrate how acrylamide forms in certain heat-processed foods and both the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization have identified the chemical in food as a potential concern.
However, Health Canada says its currently not possible to determine the precise level of risk for humans.
Although acrylamide is known to cause cancer in experimental animals the agency says more research is needed before total risks can be fully understood.
It also says it’s impossible — at this time — to determine recommended maximum exposure to acrylamide but, like the American research, states French fries and potato chips typically contain the highest levels.
By the way, next time you’re munching on those designer chips that come stacked in cylinders (you know the ones we’re talking about), you just may be swallowing more than potato.
Some manufacturers use rice, wheat, corn with a sprinkling of potato flakes that are pressed into shape and then fried.