California crunches down on potato chip companies over acrylamide



by William Atkins   

Tuesday, 05 August 2008


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The chemical compound acrylamide is known to cause cancer. It is found in many potato and starchy consumer products, such as potato chips and French fries, when they are heated to high temperatures. California just won a court-approved settlement over potato chip manufacturers in which they agree to reduce levels of acrylamide in their potato chips.

The chemical compound acrylamide (acrylic amide) is a white, orderless crystalline solid with the chemical formula C3H5NO. Acrylamide is mostly used as a thickener in such industrial processes as wastewater treatment, gel electrophoresis, paper-making, ore processing, and permanent-press fabric making.

However, as of 2002, it was discovered to be produced in starchy foods when they are heated to high temperatures in such “browning” methods as baking, frying, and deep-frying. It can also be created through the microwaving of starchy foods.

Most uncooked foods do not contain any measureable amounts of acrylamide. It is also not produced when foods are heated by boiling.

It is, however, frequently found in large amounts in such starchy foods as potato chips, French fries, and bread.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has analyzed a variety of U.S. consumer foods for levels of acrylamide. The listing of these foods and their measured amounts of acrylamide is found at the FDA website “Survey Data on Acrylamide in Food: Individual Food Products.”

The U.S. state of California recently settled a lawsuit against potato chip manufacturers. In 2005, California had first sued fast-food chains and potato chip companies over acrylamide in 2005. The settlement, the culmination of three years of suing, involves the companies of H.J. Heinz Co., Frito-Lay, Kettle Foods Inc., and Lance Inc.

The 2005 lawsuit alleged that the companies violated a state requirement concerning the posting of warning labels on products containing carcinogens (cancer-causing substances).

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