Acrylamide (ACR) is formed naturally when starch-rich foods are fried, baked, grilled, toasted or microwaved at high temperatures (ie: chips, french fires, and bread.) The result is a chemical substance and known carcinogen. Studies have already confirmed that it causes cancer in laboratory animals, and human tests are currently in progress.
According to some studies, French fries and potato chips contain about 300 times more acrylamide than the safe limits recommended by WHO (World Health Organization). Unfortunately, this nutritional fact does not appear in the dietary nutritional information that goes with the packaging!
So, if the amount of saturated and trans fat aren’t enough to dissuade you from your next side order of fries or bag of chips for snacking, perhaps the acrylamide data will capture your attention. (By the way, a medium order of McDonald’s French fries contains 22 g of fat!)
Based on information from the Center for Science in Public Interest, the chart below indicates the typical levels of acrylamide in certain foods. (Note: The first entry represents the safe limit of acrylamide intake through water as set by the US Environmental Protection Agency):
As you can see, the amount of acrylamide in a large order of fast-food French fries is at least 300 times more than what the EPA allows in a glass of water. (Acrylamide is sometimes used in water-treatment facilities.)
Why hasn’t this fact been more openly discussed? There are some who fear that avoidance of foods containing ACR (acrylamide) would result in worse health issues from an unbalanced diet or pathogens from under cooked foods. There is also some consensus that low levels of ACR in the diet are not a concern for neurotoxicity or reproductive toxicity in humans, although further research is needed to study the long-term, low-level cumulative effects on the nervous system.
So, while the FDA (as well as labs in Europe and Canada) continue to research the effects of acrylamide on humans, you have 2 choices:
1. Continue eating products that contain acrylamide and wait and see what the final results will be on the carcinogenic effects on humans . . . and hope for the best! (OR)
2. Stop eating products that contain high levels of acrylamide. Occasional indulgence may be alright, but at least attempt to avoid eating them on a regular basis!