Filed Under: Food Scares Snacks

Acrylamide Facts, Fresh From The Oven

While some opportunistic politicians are still trying to make political hay out of it, acrylamide in food just isn’t the health threat they’d like it to be. Just yesterday, the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST, a nonprofit composed of scientific societies) released an issue paper on the science behind acrylamide in food, and the findings don’t look good for professional scaremongers. “There is scant evidence,” the CAST task force concluded, “that the consumption of foods containing acrylamide is harmful to humans.”

Supporting this finding is a news release issued yesterday by the Institute of Food Technologists at their Annual Meeting and Food Expo:

James Coughlin, a food toxicology expert from California, said a recent study in Germany of three men and three women given potato chips containing acrylamide found that more than half of the compound was excreted in their urine. Coughlin said the results were encouraging, but regulators don’t care as much about the positive studies as they do about the negative ones.

“I think there’s something wrong with that,” Coughlin said.

The CAST issue paper also described the sensationalist tendencies that have made acrylamide in food sound dangerous despite a lack of evidence:

The FDA [Food and Drug Administration], the WHO [World Health Organization], the EU [European Union], and other bodies have stated that there is no indication at this time that consumers need to change the eating habits in response to the acrylamide findings … Nevertheless, the news headlines in the weeks after the announcement of the [initial discovery of acrylamide in food in 2002] were “Potato Chips Cause Cancer.”

This non-threat of a threat hasn’t stopped the activist scaremongers at the Center for Science in the Public Interest from complaining today about the FDA’s inaction on acrylamide in food, but these latest developments imply that the agency still doesn’t need to fix something that isn’t broken.

As the sixteenth-century chemist Paracelsus observed, the dose makes the poison. It turns out that in order to be in any real danger from acrylamide, a person of average weight would have to eat over 62 pounds of chips or 182 pounds of fries, every day, for his or her entire life.

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