FDA Finds Acrylamide in More Foods

WASHINGTON - Acrylamide, a cancer-causing substance that has been found in fried potatoes, is also found in such foods as olives, prune juice, and teething biscuits, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has said. Still, scientists stress that the public health significance of acrylamide remains unknown.

Last week the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released figures on the new foods it tested for acrylamide. The agency also confirmed earlier findings that suggest cooked and especially fried snacks contain the highest levels -- potato chips, pretzels and popcorn.

Officials said they found no acrylamide in infant formula, but they added that they would continue looking.

Scientists stress that they have no idea what any of this means yet for human health.

Acrylamide is naturally formed in some starchy foods when they're fried, baked, or roasted at high temperatures. No one suspected it was so common in food until Swedish scientists announced they had found it in 2002.

"To date, acrylamide is known to cause cancer and reproductive problems in animals at high doses and is a neurotoxin in humans at high doses," the FDA said in a statement.

"Although initial reports of acrylamide's presence in some foods raised concerns because of possible links with increased risk of cancer in some laboratory animals, it was largely unknown how pervasive it was in the food supply, and its true public health significance for humans," the FDA added.

"Based on the current understanding of the science, FDA continues to advise consumers to eat a balanced diet, choosing a variety of foods that are low in trans- and saturated fat and rich in high fiber grains, fruits and vegetables."

The FDA has been testing popular food products. Among its findings, according to Reuters:

-- It found no acrylamide in the processed cheeses, milk, and ice cream tested.

-- Relatively high levels were found in arrowroot cookies, teething biscuits, sweet potatoes, and lower levels were discovered in some prepared meals such as turkey and vegetable dinners.

-- Peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies were also sources.

-- Home-cooked meats seemed acrylamide-free, but fried chicken and fast-food chicken nuggets contained the compounds.

-- Fresh fruits and vegetables seemed clear, but bottled prune juice and black olives had relatively high levels of acrylamide.

The FDA says it plans more studies on just how toxic acrylamide may be.

More FDA data can be found on the Internet at http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~lrd/pestadd.html#acrylamide.
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