Acrylamide carcinogen leaving your French fries
Several companies -- Heinz, Frito-Lay, Kettle Foods and Lance Inc. (which makes Cape Cod chips) -- have agreed to lower acrylamide levels in their goods to settle a lawsuit filed by the state's attorney general in 2005. This is the latest in a number of developments stemming from that lawsuit: Last year, Wendy's, KFC, Burger King and McDonald's agreed to pay fines and label their products with a Proposition 65 warning
Acrylamide is formed when sugar and the amino acid asparagine react in high heat in what's called the Maillard reaction, which always makes me think of ducks but was actually a chemical reaction discovered by the scientist Louis Camille Maillard. (It is what's responsible for the brown crispy, tasty bits on roast meat.)
First off, we've been merrily frying potatoes in our home kitchens for decades. Second, many other foods contain acrylamide -- coffee and olives, to name just two. Third: Links to human cancer haven't been established, and I've sometimes wondered what doesn't cause cancer in a rodent if you toss enough at it.
Finally, fruits, vegetables and other foods naturally contain many chemicals that can cause cancer in high doses in rodents. Here's a partial list, from a December 2005 L.A. Times article: benzyl acetate, caffeic acid, coumarin, quercetin -- found in such healthful, upstanding items as apples, basil, broccoli and tomatoes. You can read about that here. And if you want to read more about the acrylamide issue, go here.