Scary cancer link to everyday foods.

Well, I spat out my rice crispies yesterday when I read a about this stunning revelation in the Saturday papers. According to James Chapman, the Science Correspondent for the Daily Mail, British experts have found significant levels of a cancer-causing chemical called ‘acrylamide’ in our every day foods, even potatoes.

There are stringent European rulings as to how much acrylamide should be allowed in foods – no more than 10 parts per billion (ppb). Well, these scientists found 310ppb in Sainsbury’s potatoes after they had been chipped and fried (quite a margin over the supposed maximum) and the level increased if the chips became overcooked. Scarily, three varieties of Walkers Crisps were tested with acrylamide levels ranging from 1220 to 1280ppb and scarier still; the chemical was also detected in Pringles, Kellogs Special K, Kellogs Rice Crispies and Ryvita!!!!

The FSA (Foods Standards Agency) commissioned the tests and research was carried out at the Government’s Central Science Laboratory in York and it’s obviously caused a bit of a stir! It appears that the formation of acrylamide in staple foods is somehow encouraged through certain cooking processes. The original research carried out by a Swedish study group was widely dismissed by experts, but these new findings throw a rather a large spotlight on the subject.

Reading between the lines, I think it’s likely that with further studies in this area it’s likely that most fried food will be found to contain high acrylamide levels and other stuff that’s overcooked or baked until it’s dry, like breakfast cereals. I also think that the brand of the product is not significant, just how it’s cooked, so don’t replace Kellogs with another similar cereal and expect to be free from acrylamide. I must stress however that this is purely opinion and not based on research, so I will stand corrected.

It’s painfully clear that we’ve probably all been consuming vast quantities of acrylamide for years, perhaps generations and will have to go on doing so until more comprehensive research is released, so my advice is quite simple:

· Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. These contain antioxidants that reduce the impact of carcinogens and if you fill up on these, you’ll have less room for the bad stuff….

· Avoid fried foods full stop! They’re generally considered unhealthy anyway, so here’s another reason to cut them out.

· Avoid crispy heavily baked things. Replace your breakfast cereal with half a pint of semi-skimmed milk, toast and some fruit.

Don’t get too paranoid about the whole thing though – after all, you’ve got to live your life and around every corner there seems to be something that gives you cancer. If anyone has any further information on this topic, please e-mail me at and I’ll keep you all updated.