The journal Nature is reporting this week that food technologists have cracked the big mystery of Acrylamide, that “potentially carcinogenic” chemical that’s been turning up in French fries, breads, and other starchy foods. It turns out that an amino acid called Asparagine reacts with sugars to form Acrylamide when foods are cooked at high temperatures.
Setting aside the fact that Acrylamide has not been shown to cause a human hiccup, much less cancer, the news about Asparagine (which was actually first announced in Canada three weeks ago) raises all sorts of new questions.
While mainstream news commentators are busy suggesting that makers of French fries focus on using potato varieties that aren’t so rich in Asparagine, just about nobody has bothered to point the finger at all of the other foods that are naturally Asparagine-heavy — foods like spinach and beets, its namesake asparagus, alfalfa sprouts, and even dairy, beef, poultry, and eggs. Procter and Gamble even says they’ve found both Asparagine and Acrylamide in banana chips.
Instead of recognizing that Acrylamide could form in just about anything we cook and eat (mainly those things we’ve been eating for years with no discernible ill effects), the world’s lawyers, bureaucrats and self-anointed food police have contrived public-health excuses to further regulate foods.
Yesterday the FDA announced that it is funding Acrylamide tests on baby food, canned beans, cereals, chocolates, cookies, crackers, infant formulas, nuts, and peanut butter (in addition to French fries, the well-worn standbys). The agency has actually published a “draft action plan” that aims to “reduce or eliminate” Acrylamide from the American food supply.
Not satisfied with investigating potatoes and breads, the British government is authorizing a “far more extensive research programme” and soliciting research bids from universities and private labs. And Canadian health officials are already promising to “get rid of Acrylamide as much as possible.”
Lastly, in addition to the cabal of environmental lawyers trying to use Acrylamide as an excuse to file lawsuits willy-nilly, Americans still have to contend with the granddaddy of the food cops, the Center for Science in the Public Interest. As of Monday, CSPI’s Michael Jacobson was still using Acrylamide as an excuse to publicly pillory French fries and other snacks. “People should be consuming less,” he told USA Today. “Here’s another reason.”