High levels of acrylamide have been found to cause cancer in animals, and
scientists say it is likely to cause cancer in humans, U.S. health officials
Lauren Robin, a chemist with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said
acrylamide is a chemical that can form in some foods -- mainly plant-based foods
-- during high-temperature cooking processes such as frying and baking. These
include potatoes, cereals, coffee, crackers or breads, dried fruits and many
The Grocery Manufacturers Association said acrylamide is found in 40 percent of
the calories consumed in the average U.S. diet.
Acrylamide has probably been around as long as people have been baking,
roasting, toasting or frying foods, but it was only in 2002 that scientists
discovered the chemical in food. The formation occurs whether foods are cooked
at home, in restaurants or prepared commercially.
The FDA has been investigating the effects of acrylamide and posted a draft
document with practical strategies to help growers, manufacturers and food
service operators lower the amount found in food.
Acrylamide forms from sugars and an amino acid that are naturally present in
food. It does not form in dairy, meat and fish products.
"Generally speaking, acrylamide is more likely to accumulate when cooking is
done for longer periods or at higher temperatures," Robin said in a statement.
"Boiling and steaming foods do not typically form acrylamide."
Given the widespread presence of acrylamide in foods, it isn't feasible to
completely eliminate acrylamide from one's diet, Robin said.
However, there are some steps people can take to help decrease the amount
-- Frying causes acrylamide formation. If frying frozen fries, follow
manufacturers' recommendations on time and temperature and avoid overcooking,
heavy crisping or burning.
-- Toast bread to a light brown color rather than a dark brown color. Avoid very
-- Cook cut potato products such as frozen french fries to a golden yellow color
rather than a brown color. Brown areas tend to contain more acrylamide.
-- Do not store potatoes in the refrigerator, which can increase acrylamide
during cooking. Keep potatoes outside the refrigerator in a dark, cool place,
such as a closet or a pantry.