[ Watch the Video: Put Down The Fries And Eradicate Some Acrylamide From Your Diet ]
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
While some people may be cutting French fries out of their diet to avoid excess carbohydrates, the decision has another major health benefit – lowering the intake of cancer-causing acrylamide.
On Friday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) posted an online draft document containing practical strategies for growers, manufacturers and food service operators on how to lower the amount of acrylamide in foods they work with.
The World Health Organization has said, “Acrylamide is known to cause cancer in animals and, in high doses, can cause nerve damage in humans.”
According to FDA officials, acrylamide is a chemical that can form in some foods via cooking processes like frying and baking. Plant-based foods like potatoes, cereals, coffee, crackers or breads and dried fruits are thought to contain the highest levels of acrylamide. The chemical is found in 40 percent of the calories eaten in the average American diet, according to the Grocery Manufacturers Association.
While people have been exposing themselves to acrylamide for as long as they have been using heat to cook, scientists first found the chemical in food back in 2002. Since its discovery, the FDA has been looking into the effects of acrylamide and potential measures to reduce our exposure to it.
“Generally speaking, acrylamide is more likely to accumulate when cooking is done for longer periods or at higher temperatures,” said Lauren Robin, a chemist at the FDA.
The FDA document recommends French fries should be cooked in accordance with manufacturers’ recommendations regarding cooking time and temperature. Overcooking or burning the fries increases acrylamide formation, the FDA says.
The government agency also recommends keeping potatoes out of the refrigerator, as refrigeration can raise acrylamide formation during cooking. Potatoes should be kept in a dark, cool place, such as a closet or a pantry.
According to NBC News diet and health editor Madelyn Fernstrom, stories about the dangers of acrylamide seem to come up every few years.
“There’s no reason to panic,” she said in an article for the TODAY show. “Long-term studies need to be made, but in the meantime, just do your best to lower it. And, mostly, that’s going to be cutting down on fried foods. There’s a lot of reasons to cut back on fried foods, and this is one more.”
The announcement on acrylamide comes about a week after the FDA proposed measures to eliminate artificial trans fats from the food supply. The FDA said their trans fat ruling would be open to public comment for 60 days.
With many already having taken steps to lower trans fats in their products, food producers appeared to have seen this move coming from the FDA.
“Life has many uncertainties, but we are on a clear track,” said FDA commissioner Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg last week. “We have solid evidence showing the need for today’s action on trans fat.”
Trans fats are formed by treating liquid oil with hydrogen gas until they become solid. These partially hydrogenated oils became popular in fried foods, baked goods and in margarine.