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Browned toast increases risk of cancer, scientists say

24 January 2017
Browned toast increases risk of cancer, scientists say

Acrylamide is produced when starchy foods are roasted, fried or grilled for too long at high temperatures.

The danger foods include chips, toast, biscuits, crackers, crisps, breakfast cereals (except for porridge), coffee, cooked pizza bases, black olives and cereal-based baby foods. Storing raw potatoes in the fridge may lead to the formation of more free sugars in the potatoes (a process sometimes referred to as "cold sweetening") and can increase overall acrylamide levels especially if the potatoes are then fried, roasted or baked. If the sugar levels increase, it is also possible that the amount of acrylamide increases too when cooking that vegetable.

You can thank a chemical called acrylamide-and the British Food Standards Agency-for the recommendation.

The FSA has stated that aim for a golden yellow colour when toasting, roasting, baking, or frying starchy foods, and to keep raw potatoes in a cool dry place above 6C. The on-pack instructions are created to cook the product correctly.

"Anything you can do to reduce your exposure will reduce your lifetime risk".

"Our research indicates that the majority of people are not aware that acrylamide exists, or that they might be able to reduce their personal intake", FSA director of police Steve Wearne says.

But if you are anxious about the health risks, the FSA has issued the following guidance as part of its campaign. But the risk assessment concluded that, "at the levels we are exposed to from food, acrylamide could be increasing the risk of cancer but not effects on the nervous and reproductive systems".

McDonald's have announced they will change the way their fries are prepared
McDonald's have announced they will change the way their fries are prepared

For example, roast potatoes should not be "fluffed up" to maximise dark brown crispy bits and they should be roasted to the lightest colour that is acceptable.

'I wouldn't say the risk is tiny but the risk is something in which we can manage. "People just don't know what to eat anymore because they're not being given clear advice".

FSA's "Go for Gold" campaign is based on findings from the agency's Total Diet Study that was also published today.

Boiling, steaming or microwaving food is a much better and healthier option, BBC News reports.

No specific maximum limits for acrylamide in food have as yet been introduced in the European Union or elsewhere in the world.

Although one of the FSA's advice is that people should eat a varied and balanced diet, this message risks being lost among all the other recommendations promoted by the "Go for Gold" campaign. It's important that relatively minor changes in your cooking practices, could reduce the risk even further and we think that is being proportionate and reasonable'.