Now this is kinda interesting… At first it sounds like another knee-jerk scare tactic campaign by one of those “public interest” groups, but this one might have some substance to it. According to the sources in this story, a byproduct of the process of making potato chips is acrylamide, which causes cancer in rats and (according to some Swedish scientists) may do harm to humans as well.
A consumer group in California is campaigning for warning labels to be placed on potato chips.
The group, the Environmental Law Foundation, say potato chips contain a chemical known to cause cancer and under California law, companies are required to warn consumers if their products contain known carcinogens.
They have filed notices with the State’s attorney general against Lay’s potato chip maker PepsiCo Inc., Pringles maker Procter & Gamble Co., Cape Cod potato chip maker Lance Inc. and Kettle Chips maker Kettle Foods Inc.
The notices give the attorney general’s office 60 days to take up the case on behalf of all Californians. If the state declines to pursue the matter, the group says it intends to bring suit in the public interest against the companies.
The chemical, acrylamide, is formed when starchy foods are baked or fried at high temperatures. Acrylamide is listed by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment as a chemical known to cause cancer.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been studying the impact of acrylamide levels in food since 2002. On its Web site, the FDA says that, while the chemical is known to cause cancer in laboratory animals in high doses, it is “not clear whether acrylamide causes cancer in humans at the much lower levels found in food.”
FDA spokesman Mike Herndon says at present they are still evaluating the effects of acrylamide.
A lot of popular brands of chips are loaded with it, though it’s not mentioned anywhere on the packaging. Proposition 65 in California will make the food companies include this “ingredient” on their product packaging, but of course “…Processed food manufacturers have reportedly asked Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for a exemption to Proposition 65 labeling for foods with carcinogens caused by heat processing.” Wouldn’t you want to know if the food you’re eating contains high levels of a carcinogen? The story doesn’t really say how much of this stuff you have to eat before it starts eating you, but it would still be fair to list it on the packaging.
Out of curiosity, I did a simple Google search on the phrase “acrylamide cancer” and turned up a preliminary study (among others) which suggests that the chemical doesn’t really do much harm, so who knows.
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Two preliminary studies suggest that eating foods containing acrylamide, recently discovered to be common in fried foods rich in carbohydrates, does not increase the risk for several types of cancer, a scientist said Monday.
The findings should calm fears brought on two years ago when Swedish scientists announced that many foods contained elevated levels of the chemical. Acrylamide, used in making grout and treating wastewater, had not been detected in food previously.
Ah, the miracles of modern food production!