Scientists say real concern about acrylamide in food, need for more study


Thursday, June 27th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


GENEVA (AP) _ Health experts said there was a ``major concern'' that a substance in high carbohydrate foods _ such as french fries and potato chips_ may cause cancer.

Experts at the U.N. sponsored event did not, however, issue guidelines warning consumers against eating foods with the potentially cancer-causing substance acrylamide and said further study was necessary.

Instead the meeting produced a document restating standard nutritional guidelines calling for balanced diets with plenty of fruit and vegetables and limited amounts of fatty or fried food.

``The experts were unanimous and clear that this is a major concern,'' said Dieter Arnold, of Germany's Federal Institute of Health Protection for Consumers, who was chairman of the session.

The closed meeting grouped some 25 scientists from universities and national food authorities, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The meeting was sponsored by the World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization.

It grew out of a study by Sweden's National Food Administration earlier this year which found high levels of acrylamide in some brands of french fries, potato chips, some types of breakfast cereal and crispbread and some types of bread cooked at high temperatures.

Subsequent studies in Norway, Britain, Switzerland and Germany basically backed up those findings. A survey conducted for the U.S.-based Center for Science in the Public Interest reached similar conclusions.

Arnold said WHO and FAO had no plans to issue specific advice to consumers on whether to avoid certain foods or brands _ given that the research found big differences between different brands.

He said that experts would continue studies on an urgent basis to discover the exact role of temperatures and different types of processing methods.

He said there seemed to be a direct correlation between the length of cooking and the level of acrylamide _ browner french fries cooked for a longer period contained higher levels of acrylamide, he said.

Acrylamide is a known carcinogen in rats. There is no conclusive proof that it causes cancer in humans, but this is considered highly likely.