Acrylamide in Food Most Likely Causes Cancer, Says European Food Safety Authority

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A draft opinion written by the European Food Safety Authority says that it has “confirmed previous evaluations” that eating acrylamide in food increases the risk of developing certain cancers.

Acrylamide is a chemical reaction that occurs in foods—mostly in starches—when they’re browned during cooking at temperatures above 248 degrees Fahrenheit (120 degrees Celsius). Potato chips and French fries are common sources of acrylamide in food, as is coffee, breads, crackers and many types of foods targeted at children. Children represent the age group most often exposed to the chemical.

While chair of the EFSA’s panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain, Dr. Diane Benford, noted that human studies on acrylamide exposure and the increased cancer risk were both limited and inconsistent, she explained: “Acrylamide consumed orally is absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract, distributed to all organs and extensively metabolized. Glycidamide, one of the main metabolites from this process, is the most likely cause of the gene mutations and tumours seen in animal studies,” Food Navigator reported.

The EFSA panel noted that acrylamide is “extensively metabolized, mostly by conjugation with glutathione but also by epoxidation to glycidamide (GA). Formation of GA is considered to represent the route underlying the genotoxicity and carcinogenicity of acrylamide. Neurotoxicity, adverse effects on male reproduction, developmental toxicity and carcinogenicity were identified as possible critical endpoints for acrylamide toxicity from experimental animal studies.”

The panel also noted health risks connected with acrylamide including potential damage to the nervous system, male reproduction and both pre- and post-natal development issues.

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Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites and, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better. Twitter @jillettinger |