While French fries and potato chips are the most well-known sources of the carcinogen acrylamide, prompting a lawsuit by California's attorney general, there are many other food sources of the chemical, including black olives, coffee, bread, and breakfast cereal.
Present in 40 Percent of Calories
Acrylamide was once believed only to be the product of industrial waste; it was not until 2002 that it was discovered to be almost everywhere in the human diet. It is a tasteless, invisible byproduct formed when foods -- particularly high-carbohydrate foods -- are fried or baked at high temperatures.
The chemical is present in 40 percent of the caloric intake of most Americans, although French fries and potato chips contain the highest concentrations.
Universal Presence Affects Lawsuit
The almost universal presence of the chemical has led to some doubts about the possibility of success in the California attorney general's lawsuit against fast food companies and potato chip manufacturers.
The suit argues that the companies are required, under California law, to warn the public about toxic chemicals in their food.
Eight Hundred Times the Safe Dose
The EPA considers acrylamide so dangerous that it has the safe level for human consumption at almost zero; the maximum safe level in drinking water is 0.5 parts per billion. A small serving of French fries contains over 400 parts per billion of the chemical.
It is universally agreed that acrylamide causes cancer; however, no one is certain exactly how much of the chemical represents a dangerous dose.
It's somewhat ironic that the fact that this dangerous carcinogen is present in so many foods -- not just French fries, potato chips or meats -- makes California Attorney General Bill Lockyer's recent lawsuit less likely to succeed.
So, because the problem is so widespread as to require immediate action, it's likely that nothing is going to be done at all. Somehow, this is not the kind of logic that makes me confident that your health is being looked out for.
However, there are experts, including some respected scientists, who believe the dangers of acrylamide are certainly worth your attention. After all, do you really think it will improve your health when you eat fries and potato chips?
To protect yourself from a chemical that is universally agreed to be both a neurotoxin and a cause of cancer: