Fried to death


Carcinogens are lurking in more foods than you might think.

Between classes you notice students flocking to the nearest vending machine in hopes of curbing their hunger. In the midst of the rush, you decide to head to the cafeteria, where you grab a bag of chips, while others lag behind ordering fries among other items off the menu.

Although you may think you’re ingesting something nutritious, a report conducted by Swedish researchers shows otherwise. Everyday foods such as bread, chips and french fries were shown to contain high amounts of acrylamide, a chemical known to cause cancer.

The chemical is not intentionally added but rather is a result of how the foods are cooked.

Acrylamide forms when carbohydrate-rich foods are cooked at high temperatures specifically using methods such as frying, toasting, baking and roasting. Traces of it may be found when food is heated enough to produce a fairly dry, brown or yellow surface.

A Food and Drug Administration review based on a report conducted by Food and Agriculture Organization and World Health Organization Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives found that all potato chip products tested exceeded the legal limit of acrylamide by anywhere from 39 to 910 times.

The “FDA has been at the forefront of developing the science needed to fully assess acrylamide,” said Dr. Robert Brackett, FDA’s Director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “We look forward to thoroughly assessing JECFA’s latest findings on this issue, so that we can work together using sound science to ensure the safety of our food supply.”

The federal limit for acrylamide in drinking water is .5 parts per billion, or about .12 micrograms in an eight-ounce glass of water. However, a six-ounce serving of french fries can contain up to 60 micrograms of acrylamide.

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Recommendations found on the FDA website are to “adopt a healthy eating plan consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products. It also includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts; and is low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium) and added sugars.”

However, on campus students can be seen munching on different kinds of snacks. Others are not worried about the potential threats acrymalide poses.

“I think it really depends on the quantity of what we’re ingesting and the effects of it,” said SAC engineering student, Gustavo Carrillo. “I think there’s a bigger danger in second hand smoke from people smoking in the parking lot than acrylamide.”


  • .5 – Parts per billion of acrylamide allowed in U.S. drinking water, about .12 micrograms.
  • 60 – A six-ounce serving of french fries can have as much as 60 micrograms of acrylamide.
  • 39 – The minimum factor by which potato chip products exceeded the legal limit for acrylamide.


The FDA has been at the forefront of developing the science needed to fully assess acrylamide. We look forward to…using sound science to ensure the safety of our food supply.

—Dr. Robert Brackett
Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Director

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