As much as you like your roasted foods nicely cooked and crispy brown or accidentally burnt, here’s a warning issued by the Food Standard Agency (FSA) which cautioned the public against the risks of acrylamide – a chemical compound that forms in some foods when they are cooked at high temperatures (above 120 degrees).
According to the source, people are advised to opt for a gold colour, not darker brown, when frying, roasting, baking, grilling or toasting their foods.
The group discovered that this Acrylamide is found in high levels in a range of fried/roasted foods including breakfast cereals chips, potato products (such as waffles or children’s potato shapes), biscuits, crackers, crispbread and crisps; in coffee, cooked pizza bases, black olives and cereal-based baby foods; Root vegetables such as beetroots, yam, turnip etc.
How the harmful acrylamide occur in food
Acrylamide forms due to a chemical reaction between certain sugars and an amino acid (asparagine) in the food when it is cooked either by the aforementioned methods. However, boiling, steaming and microwaving appear far less likely to cause the reaction.
Not only does a high level of this chemical (acrylamide) cause cancer, it also causes neurological damage. While scientists are yet to gather concrete proof this chemical’s effect in human, experiments conducted on animals shows it causes cancer and neurological damage in mice. Hence, scientists believe it has the same damage on humans.
As a rule of thumb, the FSA said people should aim for a golden yellow colour or lighter when frying, roasting, baking or toasting starchy foods. For instance:
- Roasted foods such as potatoes should be cooked to the lightest colour that is acceptable and toast should also be browned to a light brown colour.
- People are advised to follow the cooking instructions on packaging to ensure foods are not cooked for too long or at too-high temperatures.
- Stick to a varied, balanced diet to reduce your overall risk of cancer.
- FSA also said people should not keep potatoes in the fridge, which can increase overall levels of acrylamide. Instead, raw potatoes should be stored in a dark, cool place with temperatures above 6 degrees. And there are evidences which show that the longer potatoes are kept, the more acrylamide can form.
Gavin Shears, a senior policy adviser in contaminants at the FSA, said:
“We are not expecting people to go out and radically change their diets if they’re eating a healthy balanced diet. This is about reducing your overall lifetime risk through simple steps.”