Study uncovers 50 other acrylamide-like chemicals
Stephen Fox, with special thanks to Ahmed El Amin of Food Quality News
(In California Attorney General William Lockyer's administration, there was a concerted effort to force the fast food companies to place a label on every bag of french fries alerting the consumer to the fact that acrylamide was present and that this chemical was known to cause cancer. If these suits are intact in AG Jerry Brown's administration, this effort is a tremendous corroboration for at least the NM Attorney General and Chemist Gary King, and maybe a few others, if there are any State Attorneys General in the US genuinely interested in Consumer Protection, to stand up to corporations who use this corporate serving line of logic to maintain that no state can question the FDA or its pronouncements and approval of a continuing list of extremely harmful products like aspartame and other incontrovertibly proven carcinogens that companies have pushed through this very compliant Bush US Food and Drug Administration.)
Acrylamide and 50 other heat-induced compounds in foods cause cancer, scientists have concluded in a recent report of a major three-year EU study into the chemical. The study adds evidence that acrylamide, formed in foods during heating or frying processes, poses a health problem, putting pressure on processors to reduce the chemical in their products. Reduction may involve reformulation, revising processing and cooking times, or the use of varieties of ingredients that do not result in as much acrylamide formation as their counterparts. The EU three-year project, known as Heat-generated Food Toxicants (Heatox), was launched to examine the formation of acrylamide in cooked foods and provide advice to industry. The team found toxicological evidence suggesting that acrylamide causes cancer.
"Their findings also suggest that there are ways to decrease exposure to acrylamide, but not to eliminate it," the report stated. "Laboratory experiments succeeded in reducing acrylamide levels in bread and potatoes by adjusting the oil to potato ratio in semi-industrial fryers or minimizing long yeast fermentation." They calculated that successful application of all presently known methods would reduce the acrylamide intake by 40 per cent, and also found that acrylamide is not the only genotoxic compound that forms when food is heated. The scientific team has created a database of about 800 heat-induced compounds, of which they say 52 are potential carcinogens based on their chemical structure. "Other compounds formed during cooking of food may also constitute an increased cancer risk for consumers," they stated.
Acrylamide forms during processing as a result of a reaction between specific amino acids, including asparagine, and sugars found in foods reaching high temperatures during cooking processes, known as the Maillard reaction. This occurs at temperatures above 212 F.
Acrylamide made huge international headlines in 2002 when scientists at the Swedish Food Administration first reported unexpectedly high levels of the potential carcinogen in carbohydrate-rich foods cooked at high temperatures. Until then acrylamide was known only as a highly reactive industrial chemical, present also at low levels for example in tobacco smoke. More than 200 research projects have been initiated around the world, and their findings co-ordinated by national governments, the EU and the United Nations. The EU three-year project began in 2003, bringing together 24 research teams from 14 countries. Most project partners are universities or research institutes, but national authorities and a European consumer organization are also involved. Heatox scientists also found that presence of acrylamide in home-cooked food is minimal in comparison with industrially or restaurant-prepared foods. Advising citizens must be a national responsibility as cooking and eating habits vary considerably between countries. "General guidelines would advise avoiding overcooking when baking, frying or toasting carbohydrate-rich foods," they stated. "Further acrylamide intake can also be achieved by following a diet without excessive fat or calorie intake."
About 40 individual research papers have been published in international scientific journals by Heatox's scientists as a result of the project, producing a six-page acrylamide reduction guide for food processors, one that complements those already produced by EU industry for various food sectors. The Hetox guide focuses on potato, cereal products, and coffee. Last year the European Commission called on member states to check annually whether acrylamide levels are falling, putting additional pressure on processors to reduce the chemical in their products. Their assessment concluded that the margins of exposure for average and high consumption consumers were low for a compound that is genotoxic and carcinogenic and that this factor may indicate a human health concern. Scientists recently conducted a study of 62,000 women in the Netherlands concluding that increased dietary intakes of acrylamide could raise the risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer by 29 and 78 per cent, respectively!
A wide range of cooked foods - prepared industrially, in catering, or at home - contain acrylamide, including bread, fried potatoes and coffee as well as specialty products like potato crisps, biscuits, crisp bread, and a range of other heat-processed products.