Why the FDA Says French Fries are Dangerous

By on November 16, 2013
Had french fries lately? Heads up: It may give you cancer.

Posted on its consumer website earlier this week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that a chemical found in plant foods, called acrylamide, should be limited due to studies which have linked it to higher rates of cancer in animal models.

Though no long-term human trials have been conducted yet, the FDA says there’s already enough proof that acrylamide is not safe for human consumption.

“While acrylamide has probably been around as long as people have been baking, roasting, toasting or frying foods, it was only in 2002 that scientists first discovered the chemical in food,” writes the FDA in a written statement. “Since then, the FDA has been actively investigating the effects of acrylamide as well as potential measures to reduce it.”

While experts such as TODAY diet and health editor Madelyn Fernstorm say there’s “no reason to panic” yet, it’s clear the FDA considers this an important issue–in their report, they advise Americans to do everything they can to cut out this key chemical from their diet.

And, scarily enough, this chemical is already found in 40 percent of the calories Americans commonly consume everyday.

That’s a lot to cut back on.

What is Acrylamide?

Normally, when a person hears the word “chemical,” they assume it is something created in a lab artificially–but this chemical is all natural.

In plants, acrylamide forms when plants are exposed to high temperatures–think baking, stir frying, or roasting. As the temperatures rise, the amino acids and sugars in plant foods work together to form the acrylamide chemical. It doesn’t matter if it’s organic either–this chemical is created from nutrients found in food, not plastic wrapping or the use of pesticides.

As for where you’ll find it the most, think of convenience foods such as french fries, potato chips, and even coffee. Unfortunately, it’s found in healthy foods as well, according to the American Cancer Society.

“Acrylamide is found mainly in foods made from plants, such as potato products, grain products, or coffee,” says the American Cancer Society in a written statement. “Foods such as French fries and potato chips seem to have the highest levels of acrylamide, but it is also found in breads and other grain products.”

Though natural, acrylamide has been linked to several types of cancers as well, which has experts on edge. In several studies conducted on mice, it increased their risk of ovarian, kidney, and endometrial cancer–cancer which primarily affects women. And although human studies are lacking, the FDA says this is enough proof to avoid it–for good.

So how do you avoid it?

  • Avoid fried food. Though tasty, fried plant foods, such as french fries, carry a high amount of this chemical, so it’s best to avoid it. Instead, opt for healthier alternatives, such as vegetable sticks or boiled potatoes.
  • Eat raw more often. Raw plant products do not contain acrylamide because this chemical only forms at high temperatures.
  • Cut down your intake of grains and increase your intake of meat and dairy products. These food sources are the least likely to contain this chemical even if exposed to high temperatures.

Readers: How much fried food do you eat every week?

Acrylamide Information and

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