Tag Archives: Acrylamide

Toxic Potato Chips and Edible Poisons

I have this knack for sensing out stories that are put in the press simply to make other people look good. I’m not sure where this talent comes from, aside from my Gen X brand cynicism and a healthy disregard for authority.

So when I read news stories that have the title “Lockyer Sues French Fry, Potato Chip Makers Over Cancer-Causing Chemical“, the immediate thought that runs into my mind is “Just what office is Lockyer gunning for?”

Why should I care? After all, it is a cancer causing chemical!

Except the headline leaves out one key fact that is kinda sorta important, and the article leaves out another key fact which is even more kinda sorta very important.

Point 1: The cancer causing agent found in the fried potatoes and other carb laden baked goods is called Acrylamide, and it is indeed on California’s Proposition 65′s list of toxic substances which are to be banned.

But the chemical is naturally occuring. It is believed to be created in foods when starches and other carbohydrates are overheated far past 100°C.

Which is all well and good, but if we’re going to ban naturally occuring carcinogins found in foods, can I recommend the following foods come with warning labels as well?

  • Lima Beans - Contain high concentrations of cyanogens, a member of the chemical family from which cyanide is developed.
  • Bamboo Shoots - Contain concentrations of cyanogens.
  • Tapioca - Cyanogens.
  • Cassava - Yup, Cyanogens.
  • Cabbage - Contains an goitrogens, a chemical that can cause excessive growth in the thyriod, often leading to…well…goiters, if one doesn’t have enough iodine in their diet.
  • Broccoli - Another goitrogen carrier.
  • Brussel Sprouts -…Whoops, here’s another goitrogen.
  • Turnips - And another goitrogen.
  • Fava Beans - Contains Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase which can lead to favism if your genetically predisposed to it. This leads to excessive breakdown of red blood cells. Fun huh?
  • Chickpeas - Hold a number of antinutritional compounds known as lathyrogens which can lead to Lathyrism. If you contract Lathyrism, hold on tight because you’re going to get neurological lesions on your spinal cord.
  • Kidney Beans - Have bits of hamagglutinins. These make your red blood cells stick together far more than can be healthy.
  • Peanuts - Aflatoxin! Excessive exposure can produce an acute necrosis, cirrhosis, and carcinoma of the liver exhibited by hemorrhage, acute liver damage, edema, alteration in digestion, and absorption and/or metabolism of nutrients. Those who are allergic to peanuts are often allergic specifically to the Aflatoxin. And yes, it can kill them.
  • Basil - Hyrdrazine is found in basil. Eating or drinking small amounts of hydrazines may cause nausea, vomiting, uncontrolled shaking, inflammation of the nerves, drowsiness, or coma. Hydrazine is found in chewing tobacco and cigarettes.
  • Celery - Celery carries psoralens, which can irritate the skin when exposed to sunlight.
  • Potatoes - Forget frying…what about the lethal amounts of solanine found in immature potatoes?

If you want, I can go on…but I think you get the point.

Point 2: The whole “Potato Chips cause Cancer!” idea?

Yeah, not so much true as it is…well…false. (For those of you too lazy to click on the link, it goes to a Harvard School for Public Health press release with the headlines “Study Shows Acrylamide In Baked And Fried Foods Does Not Increase Risk Of Certain Cancers In Humans”.) Which sorta kinda very much blows Mr. Lockyer’s claims right out of the water.

Whoops! You figure someone would have researched this better.

Unless, of course, they wanted to get their name in the paper.