The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will launch an investigation on Acrylamide, a chemical and possible carcinogen found in some foods, to determine the risks of people getting cancer, neurological damage and even infertility from eating fried and baked foods.
Last year, Swedish scientists from the University of Stockholm announced they had found it in fried foods and some bread and other foods baked at high temperatures.
Researchers from the UK, Switzerland and Norway have found similar results in previous studies. These findings have been confirmed by the World Health Organisation and further research has been urged.
FDA deputy commissioner Lester Crawford said, ‘it is clear that acrylamide is a problem’, and that the FDA aims to make final recommendations in conjunction with the World Health Organisation in 2004.
This research will aim to determine whether acrylamide causes cancer in people and if so, what amounts are dangerous, also, the foods that it is in and whether it can be removed.
Foods being tested currently by the FDA include baby food, canned beans, cereals, French Fries, potato chips, instant formula, meat and other foods.
Dr Lauren Posnick, spokesperson for the FDA’s Centre for Food Safety and Nutrition stated that her team had sampled 150 to 600 different targeted foods.
Some of the foods tested had varying amounts of acrylamides with some French fries and potato chips having a high amount.
‘It’s worth noting that all the infant formulas came out below the limits of quantitation’, Dr Posnick said.
Other tests by the FDA on acrylamides have showed that they damage DNA and cell proteins. Researchers state that such damage is often the first step to cancer because it can lead to mutations that cause cells to grow into tumours.
Dr Bernard Schwetz, senior adviser for science at FDA stated that acrylamide’s ability to attach to DNA was of concern. It has been found to cause cancer in laboratory animals, but has never been linked to human cancer. ‘The fact that a chemical that has carcinogenic properties in laboratory animals in food is not a new finding’ Dr Schwetz said.
The FDA is working to find out how acrylamides are formed. Several research papers in this week’s issue of Nature show that when the amino acid asperagine is heated in combination with glucose, acrylamide is more likely to form. Asperagine is found in many plant based foods. The FDA state that low water content and high-temperature cooking play a role so they will also investigate if changing cooking oils will lower their occurrence.
Thomas Sinks of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention says they will add a test for acrylamide to its annual survey of what chemicals consumers are exposed to. They screen thousands of people to see what chemicals are in their blood and urine. This looks at the damage done by acrylamide to haemoglobin.
In the meantime, the FDA advises consumers to eat a balanced diet, with plenty of fruits and vegetables and only the occasional fried food.
(Source: ABC online, ASCO and Reuters Health)