Acrylamide causes cancer, although no one can say for sure what amount of the chemical has to be ingested before it becomes dangerous. Once thought to be a product of industrial waste, three years ago acrylamide was discovered in many human foods -- particularly, fried potatoes in the form of french fries and potato chips.
What is it? From the EPA: "Acrylamide is an organic solid of white, odorless, flake-like crystals. The greatest use of acrylamide is as a coagulant aid in drinking water treatment. Other uses of include: to improve production from oil wells; in making organic chemicals and dyes; in the sizing of paper and textiles; in ore processing; in the construction of dam foundations and tunnels.
"The list of trade names given below may help you find out whether you are using this chemical at home or work: 2-Propenamide;Acrylic amide; Ethylenecarboxamide; Amresco Acryl-40; Acrylagel;
"EPA has found acrylamide to potentially cause the following health effects when people are exposed to it at levels above the MCL for relatively short periods of time: damage to the nervous system, weakness and incoordination in the legs. Long-term: Acrylamide has the potential to cause the following effects from a lifetime exposure at levels above the MCL: damage to the nervous system, paralysis; cancer."
The California Attorney General has filed a lawsuit based upon acrylamide, demanding that fast food companies and chip manufacturers warn the public that this toxic chemical exists in their products. As reported in their August 2005 Press Release:
"Filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Lockyer's complaint alleges the companies have violated Proposition 65, a landmark ballot initiative enacted by voters in 1986. The law requires businesses to provide "clear and reasonable" warnings before exposing people to known carcinogens or reproductive toxins. The defendants in the lawsuit are:
Burger King Corporation, french fries
Cape Cod Potato Chips, Inc./Lance, Inc. (parent company), Cape Cod potato chips
Frito-Lay, Inc./PepsiCo, Inc., Lay’s potato chips/Lay’s baked potato chips
H.J. Heinz, Inc., Ore-Ida frozen potato products
Kettle Foods, Inc., Kettle Chips
KFC Corporation, KFC Potato Wedges
McDonald’s Corporation, french fries
Procter & Gamble Distributing Co./Procter & Gamble Manufacturing Co., Pringles
Wendy’s International, Inc., french fries"
How bad is this stuff? The Environmental Protection Agency find acrylamide so dangerous that only 0.5 parts per billion in drinking water is considered safe. One small serving of French Fries is 800 times that amount (400 parts per billion).
Sources: mercola.com, foodrisk.org, epa.gov, Califoria Attorney General's Office.