Filed Under: Food Scares Snacks

Northern Exposure

Michael Jacobson, worrier-in-chief of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, is back on the acrylamide bandwagon. Jacobson told the Canadian Broadcasting Company’s Market Place show yesterday that acrylamide in French fries kills “several hundred people a year,” in Canada, “and tens of thousands of people over the life time of Canadians.”

CBC host Wendy Mesley noted that CSPI had no proof of any actual cancer deaths from acrylamide; it just “did a rough calculation” by “applying animal data to the Canadian population.” Mesley asked the most obvious question: “How do you work that out when something is not a proven human carcinogen?”

Dr. Jim Lawrence, an administrator with Health Canada, noted soberly that there is a “lack of evidence that [acrylamide] is of any health concern at all right now.” And besides, he says, “What we do know is that people are not dying in the streets from eating French fries.”

Also, German researchers made news yesterday by claiming that pregnant and nursing mothers should avoid all foods that might contain acrylamide, at least until their babies are two months old. Big news, right?

Not so fast. According to a Reuters report, the study’s research team “tested breast milk from only two nursing mothers” and “the placentas of three women after they gave birth.” Armed with data from just these five subjects, Professor Fritz Soergel issued his alarming report.

Our hearts go out to Dr. Neal Barnard of the misnamed Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Newsweek reports that the animal-rights-oriented Barnard tried to prove that an “aggressive” vegetarian diet could reverse diabetes, using a cohort of only seven test subjects. But his record for “fewest measurements made before drawing a scientific conclusion” has officially been broken.

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