Fried Snacks and Coffee May Be Cancer Risks, EU Food Agency Says

Crackers, potato chips, coffee and other foods browned when fried or roasted have the potential to increase the risk of cancer, according to a European Union advisory authority.

Acrylamide, produced in cooking at temperatures above 150 degrees Celsius (300 Fahrenheit), may pose a particular threat to children, the European Food Safety Authority said today in a statement. The EFSA opened a public consultation and confirmed previous evaluations based on animal studies. Studies on humans aren’t conclusive.

The chemical “is absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract, distributed to all organs and extensively metabolized,” Diane Benford, head of the Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain, said in the statement. Glycidamide, a metabolite created in the process, “is the mostly like cause of the gene mutations and tumors seen in animal studies,” she said.

The agency’s stance adds to a global debate about health effects of substances created during cooking. Novozymes A/S Chief Executive Officer Peder Holk Nielsen said last year that sales to food producers of enzymes that lower levels of acrylamide in foods are “going very well.”

EFSA is advocating more research. “So far, human studies on occupational and dietary exposure to acrylamide have provided limited and inconsistent evidence of increased risk of developing cancer,” Benford said.

European and national authorities are recommending a lower intake of acrylamide, the advisory group said. It didn’t find harmful effects from the substance on the nervous system, pre-and post-natal development or male reproduction.

Scientists and others interested can submit comments on the group’s draft report until Sept. 15, and EFSA plans to adopt a final opinion by June 2015.

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