Thursday, October 29, 2009

Acrylamide and Human Health

A chemical used in making plastics, textiles, and dyes and in purifying drinking water. Short-term exposure above safe limits (maximum contaminant levels) set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) causes damage to the central nervous system. Long-term exposure can cause paralysis and possibly cancer. The chemical has been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals. In 2002 the World Health Organization (WHO) convened an emergency meeting of food safety and health experts after a team of Swedish scientists reported that some starch-based foods, like potato CHIPS, FRENCH FRIES, and some BREAKFAST CEREALS and BREADS, contain high levels of acrylamide. The amount of the chemical found in a large order of fast-food french fries was at least 300 times above EPA safe limits for drinking water. Additional studies in Norway, Great Britain, Switzerland, and the United States reached similar results.
Acrylamide apparently forms in some starchy foods when they are baked or fried at high temperatures. Raw or boiled samples of these foods, such as potatoes, test negative for the chemical. Research on the health effects of acrylamide in food is ongoing. For the time being, most health experts have stopped short of advising consumers to avoid the risky foods or change their cooking methods.

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