French fries: Would you like acrylamide with those?
Although the answer is most likely to be no, that's exactly what people are getting when they order a ubiquitous side order of fries. The French fry has already received its share of bad press, mainly for questionable nutritional value, but this time around the health threat is downright toxic. The chemical perpetrator in question is acrylamide.
Acrylamide is a suspected human carcinogen, severe neurotoxin, and causes irritation of the eyes, skin (is readily absorbed), and respiratory tract.
Worries that Canadians might be inadvertently ingesting too much cancer-causing acrylamide from French fries, potato chips and other processed foods has prompted Health Canada to recommend adding the chemical to the country's toxic substances list.
Acrylamide is an industrial chemical that isn't naturally found in foods, but is produced accidentally when sugars and other items in potatoes and grains are exposed to high cooking temperatures.
It has also been detected in breakfast cereals, pastries, cookies, breads, rolls, toast, cocoa products and coffee, although at levels far below those in fried potato products.
Is nothing sacred? There was some to-do about fries being carcinogenic quite a while back so it is interesting to see the same "findings" recurring once more. We already know deep-fried foods aren't the healthiest choices, but for lovers of the fry, this just adds insult to injury.
Acrylamide is also used to make polymers found in grout, cement, waste water treatment, pesticides, cosmetics, and diapers, among other products. The data posted by the government didn't give any indication that these non-food uses would be regulated.
The toxic announcement was greeted positively by environmentalists, who have been arguing that potentially dangerous chemicals in consumer goods need to be limited.
"We think it's particularly important to list the chemicals that are in common, everyday items," said Aaron Freeman, a spokesman for Environmental Defence, a Toronto-based advocacy group. He said the government should move quickly to introduce control measures.
That is more than a logical request, it should just be common sense. It would appear that, once again, consumers are forced to research their food choices since the government can't be expected to keep products safe.