Dr. Elizabeth Smoots failed to ask an obvious question regarding the supposed cancer risks from eating acrylamide, a common chemical found in starchy foods (Tuesday column, “Something else to watch out for:
acrylamides”). How much is too much?

Consider french fries, for instance. A person of average size would have to eat 182 pounds — every day, for a lifetime — to have the same cancer risk suffered by lab rats in published studies. That hardly seems worth fretting over.

It’s no surprise, then, that thorough studies published in the British Journal of Cancer and the International Journal of Cancer found no realistic added cancer risk from the tiny amount of acrylamide in food.

Scaring people about acrylamide will have the paradoxical effect of making people less healthy by turning them away from olives, almonds, asparagus, spinach, beets and prune juice — all acrylamide-rich foods. And if you really want to banish acrylamide from your diet, you’d better start with coffee. It’s a biggee.

Have we really run out of worthwhile things to worry about?