Life / Health

UK health campaign warns of potentially harmful acrylamide in foods

While there may be no scientific consensus on whether or not acrylamide is linked to cancer in humans, the UK’s Food Standards Agency isn't taking any chances.

Starchy foods like potatoes generate acrylamide when cooked for an extended time at high temperatures.

LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images

Starchy foods like potatoes generate acrylamide when cooked for an extended time at high temperatures.

The UK government has released a new health campaign to warn its citizens from supposed dangers of a possible carcinogen found in starchy foods.

It’s called acrylamide, a naturally occurring chemical in some plant-based foods like potatoes that’s created during processing or cooking at high temperatures. Research has found the compound may be linked to cancer in animals.

The UK’s Go for Gold campaign gives four general tips to avoid acrylamide:

  • When frying, baking or roasting starchy foods, aim for a  “golden yellow colour or lighter”
  • Follow the cooking instructions on the product’s package
  • Eat a varied diet
  • Don’t store raw potatoes in the fridge, it could raise acrylamide levels

Although the UK’s Food Standards Agency says “scientific consensus is that acrylamide has the potential to cause cancer in humans,” the jury is still out on just how and if that's the case.

According to Cancer Research UK, “evidence from human studies has shown that, for most cancer types, there is no link between acrylamide and cancer risk.”

Health Canada released its own set of guidelines for reducing acrylamide consumption in 2009, but notes that fears of the chemical causing the disease come from studies involving animals, not humans.

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