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Cancer in a Can: The Shocking True Story of how ‘Pringles’ are Made

How Much Acrylamide are You Consuming?

The federal limit for acrylamide in drinking water is 0.12 micrograms in an eight-ounce glass of water, or about 0.5 parts per billion. However, a six-ounce serving of French fries can contain 60 micrograms of acrylamide, or nearly FIVE HUNDRED times over the federal limit.

The potato chips have a notoriously high amountof this dangerous chemical. So high, in fact, that in 2005 the state of California sued the potato chips makers for failing to warn the consumers from California about the health risks of acrylamide found in their products. Anagreement was reached in 2008 when Frito-Lay and few other potato chip makers agreed to reduce the acrylamide levels in their chips to 275 parts per billion (ppb) by 2011, which is the amount low enough to avoid the cancer warning label.

The 2005 report “How Potato Chips Stack Up: Levels of Cancer-Causing Acrylamide in Popular Brands of Potato Chips,” issued by the California-based environmental Law Foundation (ELF), warned about the dangers of this popular snack. Their analysis discovered that all potato chip products tested were over the legal limit of acrylamide by a minimum of 39 times, and a maximum of 910 times! Some of the worst offenders at that time included:

  • Kettle Chips (honey dijon): 495 times
  • Kettle Chips (lightly salted): 505 times
  • Cape Cod Robust Russet: 910 times the legal limit of acrylamide

Caution: Baked Chips May Be Even WorseThan Fried!

If you think that you can evade the health risks of the potato chips by choosing its baked varieties, which are always advertised as being “healthier”,well think again.One thing you have to remember is that acrylamide is formed not only when foods are boiled or fried, but also when they are baked. And according to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) data on amounts of acrylamide in foods, baked chips may contain more than three timesthe amount of acrylamide from regular chips!

Interestingly, the same thing goes for other foods, too, which suggests that baking the potatoes at high temperatures may be one of the worst ways to process them. For example, according to the FDA’s data, Ore Ida Golden Fries contained 107 ppb of acrylamide in the regular fried version and 1,098 in the baked one. So remember this, ALL potato chips contain acrylamide, regardless of whether they arefried or baked; natural or not. Likewise, they will ALL affect your insulin levels in a very negative way.

Acrylamide is Not the Only Danger

When foods are heated to high temperatures, Acrylamide is not the only dangerous genotoxic compound that is formed.

A three-year long EU project, known as Heat–Generated Food Toxicants (HEATOX), whose findings were published at the end of 2007, found that there are more than 800 heat–induced compounds, of which 52 are potential carcinogens. In addition to their discoveriesis that acrylamide does pose a public health threat, the HEATOX scientists also discovered that you’re far less likely to ingest dangerous levels of the toxin when you eat homecooked foods compared to the restaurant or industrially-prepared foods.

Additionally, the HEATOX findings also suggest that although there are ways to decrease exposure to acrylamide, it can never be eliminated completely.

They have calculated that, with a successful application of all known methods until todayit would reduce the acrylamide intake by 40 percent at the most—which makes us wonder whether chips manufacturers have been successful in reducing acrylamide levels to within federal limits… There’s no updated data yet, so there’s no proofthat they’ve been able to comply with the 2005 agreement.

For more detailed information about acrylamide, we recommend reading the online report Heat– Generated Food Toxicants, Identification, Characterization and Risk Minimization. However, in general, just remember that cooking food at high temperatures is not advised. A few of the most well-known toxins created in high-temperature cooking include:

Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs): When the food is cooked at high temperatures (including when it is sterilized or pasteurized), the formation of AGEs in your food increases. When you consume the food, it transfers the AGEs into your body. AGEs build up in your body over time leading to inflammation, oxidative stress, and an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease and diabetes.

Heterocyclic Amines (HCAs): These HCAs are formed when the meat is cooked at high temperatures, and they’re also linked to cancer. In terms of HCA, the worst part of the meat is the section where the meat has blackened, which is why you should always avoid charring your meat, and never eat the blackened sections.

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs): When fat drips onto the heat source, causing excess smoke, and the smoke surrounds your food, it can transfer cancer-causing PAHs to be created in the meat.

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