Cancer warning – cut down on chips and crisps


The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) published new guidelines on the health hazard posed by the cancer-causing chemical acrylamide — which occurs naturally during the frying, roasting or baking of starchy foods such as potatoes.

Acrylamide has been shown to cause tumours in laboratory rats, and although no definitive evidence of a link to cancer in humans has been found, health authorities worldwide have said levels in our diets should be cut as much as possible.

It has also been found to cause damage to the central nervous system in humans and may also affect reproductive processes.

The FSAI said it was not necessary to cut foodstuffs containing acrylamide out of our diets, as consumers with a healthy, balanced diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables and low in fat should not be unduly concerned.

“The FSAI does not consider that people should make major changes to their diet or stop eating any of the food products in which acrylamide has been reported,” it said.

The watchdog warned that a large consumption of fried fatty foods such as chips and crisps should be avoided.

Foods should not be overcooked or over fried, as this creates higher levels of the dangerous chemical.

Irish people’s average daily consumption of acrylamide is estimated at 0.6 microgram per kg bodyweight, compared with 0.3 to 2.0 worldwide.

High users in Ireland consume 1.75 micrograms a day, compared with 0.6 to 3.5 for high users worldwide.

Potato products, such as chips and crisps, contribute almost half the acrylamide in the Irish diet.

Bread contributes a third and biscuits 10pc, with breakfast cereals supplying 5pc, and 2pc coming from coffee.

The FSAI urged people not to store potatoes in the fridge as they needed a temperature of 8C or higher, while frying temperatures should not exceed 175C.

It said oven-baked chips should not be cooked at more than 200C, and they should be golden yellow rather than brown when eaten.

The FSAI has also issued guidelines to food producers and processors on how to reduce acrylamide levels in their products, including selecting types of potatoes with lower sugar levels to avoid acrylamide formation.

The authority has also published a factsheet on the artificial sweetener aspartame or ‘NutraSweet’, because of health concerns expressed over the years about a possible link with epilepsy, brain tumours, allergies and cancer.

However, it said that comprehensive studies by the European Food Safety Authority had found there were no health concerns and experts worldwide agreed it was safe to use.

Further details are available from

From today’s Irish Independent newspaper.