Swedish researchers found very high doses of acrylamide in many fried and baked foods (Journal for Agricultural and Food Chemistry, August 2002). Acrylamide is a chemical used in forming plastic polymers that are found in many industrial products. The polymers made from acrylamide are harmless, but acrylamide has been shown to cause nerve damage including loss of feeling in the fingers and toes, pain, depression, and forgetfulness. Because of serious problems that have occurred with acrylamide, the World Health Organization has set rigid standards for human exposure.
The amounts of acrylamide found in potato chips and French fries were 500 times the allowable amount allowed in drinking water. So the world gives a deep yawn and ignores the results. A team of researchers in England reported that they also found very high levels of acrylamide in baked and fried foods, and a team from Norway has confirmed these results. A representative of the food industry told a reporter from the Washington Post that they are testing foods for acrylamide, but so far they have not found the high levels reported in Sweden, England, and Norway. According to the Washington Post, a representative of the Grocery Manufacturers of America told their reporter that: "There is still no indication that the level of acrylamide found in some foods causes any human health risk, so we don't see at this point any reason for consumers to change their eating habits."
When you cook carbohydrate-containing foods with water, no acrylamide forms. However, when you cook carbohydrates at high temperatures without water, they turn brown and acrylamide forms. So boiling and steaming do not form acrylamide, but high-temperature baking and frying do. My recommendation is for you to limit eating French fries and potato chips until the food industry reduces the levels of acrylamide to near zero. As for the other foods such as the brown part of bread and browned breakfast cereals, the amount of acrylamide reported is quite small and I see no reason to stop eating them at this time. More at Acrylamide (AGEs)
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