The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has warned of high levels of a chemical linked to cancer in best-selling crisps, biscuits and baby foods after tests were carried out on them.
According to the FSA, animal studies reveal 25 products have raised levels of acrylamide, a chemical which can trigger DNA mutations and cancer.
Acrylamide has been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as ‘probably carcinogenic in humans’ and the World Health Organisation (WHO) has concluded that exposure to the chemical in food ‘indicates a human health concern’.
On the danger list are products which include; Kettle Chips, Burts crisps, Hovis, Fox’s crinkle ginger biscuits, Kenco decaff coffee, McVitie’s, products from Cow & Gate such as its spaghetti bolognese, baby wheat flakes and Hovis granary bread.
The agency is not advising consumers to stop eating the products or baby foods, but manufacturers have been told to cut levels.
The FSA said:
“For all of these samples, we followed up with the manufacturers or brand owners via local authority inspectors. They alerted them to the findings and requested information about what is being done to control acrylamide in those products.
“We would emphasise though that the indicative values are not legal maximum limits nor are they safety levels. They are performance indicators and designed to promote best practice in controlling acrylamide levels.”
A spokesperson for Cow and Gate said the company was investigating the findings but “anticipate it is a one-off result,” adding that the company takes food safety extremely serious and have been working hard to reduce acrylamide levels.
The food watchdog’s alert is coming a few days just after the public was warned on the risks of eating burnt toast and roast potatoes. The link to acrylamide was also behind the warning over fried, roasted and toasted foods such as potatoes and bread.
In the food watchdog’s newly launched campaign called ‘Go For Gold’, cooks have been encouraged not to burn starchy foods such as potatoes and toast, by resisting the temptation to turn up the oven temperature as a “shortcut” because it increases the likelihood of burning.
Henceforth, we are being encouraged to only lightly fry, roast, or bake our spuds and bread until “golden yellow.” Here’s a full list of products which have higher concentrations of acrylamide:
- Cereal-based baby foods
- Breakfast cereals (not porridge)
- Chips and other potato products (such as waffles or children’s potato shapes)
- Cooked pizza bases
- Black olives
- Root vegetables including potatoes, sweet potatoes, beetroot, turnip, swede and parsnips can all carry high levels once roasted or fried until darker brown or crispy
On the bright side, however, acrylamide does not definitely cause cancer, its link to cancer in humans is said to be extremely weak. The agency cautioned that any risk to humans will be as a result of lifetime consumption and not occasional eating.
Although the link between the chemical and cancer has not yet been proven in humans, the Cancer Research UK has confirmed it in mice.
According to the WHO, the most important known avoidable causes of cancer after tobacco is being overweight and obesity.
Alcohol is also one of the most well-established causes of cancer. Other advice for reducing the risk of cancer are; eating a healthy, balanced diet, enjoying the sun safely and keeping active.