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the carcinogen acrylamide may be formed by heating asparagine with sugar
The article below stresses the "discovery" that the carcinogen and nerve
toxin acrylamide is found in cooked potatoes and can be formed by
heating the amino acid asparagine with sugar. Neither the article nor
the government web sites mention the fact that polyacrylamide (that is
made up of acrylamide units) is used to wash vegetables, added to
irrigation water and added to pesticide sprays a truly glaring omission!
CNN 30 sept. 2002
Scientists identify carcinogen clue
Food and Drug Administration external link
WASHINGTON (AP) --Scientists have found a clue to the chemical reaction
that may cause potato chips, french fries and other fried or baked
starchy foods to build up high levels of a possible cancer-causing
The suspect is asparagine, a naturally occurring amino acid that, when
heated with certain sugars such as glucose, leads to the formation of
the worrisome substance acrylamide.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has made studying acrylamide's
risk and determining how to lower its levels in food one of its highest
research priorities, according to a plan that agency officials were to
discuss Monday with consumer groups and food manufacturers.
Canada's government made the discovery about the suspect chemical
reaction and has ordered food manufacturers to look for ways to alter it
and thus lower levels of acrylamide in food. Cincinnati-based
manufacturer Procter & Gamble Co. says its scientists, too, have found
the asparagine connection.
It is the first clue to emerge in the mystery of acrylamide since
Swedish scientists made the surprise announcement in the spring that
high levels of the possible carcinogen are in numerous everyday foods:
french fries, potato chips, some types of breakfast cereals and breads
-- plenty of high-carbohydrate foods that are fried or baked at high
temperatures. The chemical was not found in boiled foods, which are
cooked at lower temperatures.
Sweden's findings were confirmed in June by governments in Norway,
Britain and Switzerland, and preliminary testing of several hundred
foods by the FDA suggests U.S. foods contain similar acrylamide levels,
said Richard Canady, who is directing the agency's assessment of
Acrylamide is used to produce plastics and dyes and to purify drinking
water. Although traces have been found in water, no one expected high
levels to be in basic foods.
It causes cancer in test animals, but it has not been proved to do so in
people. Still, Swedish scientists have said the levels are high enough
that foodborne acrylamide might be responsible for several hundred cases
of cancer in that country each year.
In the United States, the FDA has been careful to caution that
acrylamide so far is only a suspected carcinogen. The FDA has not yet
advised consumers to alter their diets to avoid it.
Still uncertain is whether the FDA, once it finishes testing different
foods next year, will publicly identify which brands contain the most
acrylamide -- information wanted by consumer advocates.
For now, Canady said, "We want to reinforce ... eating a balanced diet
with plenty of fruits and vegetables. That's the best way to ensure that
you're getting adequate nutrition."
The food industry stresses that while fried potato products are getting
most of the bad publicity -- most testing so far shows the highest
levels in them -- acrylamide is in a wide variety of foods. Procter &
Gamble said Friday that its testing found acrylamide in such previously
unimplicated foods as roasted asparagus and banana chips.