FDA: Avoid acrylamide in fried foods, coffee due to cancer risk

FDA: Avoid acrylamide in fried foods, coffee due to cancer risk

Credit: Getty Images

GOLDEN TRIANGLE, THAILAND - DECEMBER 9: Coffee beans are seen being put into a mixture with fruit and rice that will be fed to some elephants at an elephant camp at the Anantara Golden Triangle resort on December 9, 2012 in Golden Triangle, northern Thailand. Black Ivory Coffee, started by Canadian coffee expert Blake Dinkin, is made from Thai arabica hand picked beans. The coffee is created from a process whereby coffee beans are naturally refined by a Thai elephant. It takes about 15-30 hours for the elephant to digest the beans, and later they are plucked from their dung and washed and roasted. Approximately 10,000 beans are picked to produce 1kg of roasted coffee. At USD 1,100 per kilogram or USD 500 per pound, the cost per serving of the elephant coffee equals USD 50, making the exotic new brew the world's priciest. It takes 33 kilograms of raw coffee cherries to produce 1 kilo of Black Ivory Coffee. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

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by MICHELLE CASTILLO

CBS News

Posted on November 18, 2013 at 1:28 PM

The Food and Drug Administration is warning people to cut down on acrylamide, a chemical linked to cancer that can form in plant-based, starchy foods when they are cooked in high-temperatures like when baking or frying.

Foods that contain acrylamide include French fries, coffees, crackers, toasted breads and dried fruits, according to the FDA.

The chemical is created from sugars and an amino acid that is normally found in food, but usually does not form in dairy, meat and fish products. The Grocery Manufactures Association explains that acrylamide is mostly found in plant products that have the "browning Maillard reaction," meaning the food gets a different flavor, texture or color when heat is applied. Typically the browner the item when cooked, the more acrylamide the food item contains.

The Grocery Manufactures Association adds that acrylamide has been found in the human diet ever since people cooked via baking, grilling, roasting, toasting and frying food items. It can be found in 40 percent of the calories consumed in the average American diet, the FDA pointed out.

Scientists only discovered the compound in 2002, so research on the chemical is relatively new. Acrylamide has been linked to higher rates of cancer in animals, leading health officials to believe that it may be a carcinogen for humans as well.

The World Health Organization has said that stopping consumption of one or two foods high in acrylamide will likely not affect your overall exposure. But, the good news is that there are steps people can take to reduce acrylamide in their diets.

Boiling or steaming food does not form acrylamide, so when possible, heating your food with those methods may be ideal.

Since frying causes the chemical to form, it is best to follow manufacturers' recommendations on time and temperature when making fried foods. Do not overcook or overcrisp the items.

When making potato products, cook them to a golden yellow color rather than a brown color. Potatoes should also not be stored in the refrigerator, which can increase the amount of acrylamide that forms when the item is cooked. Potatoes should be kept in a dark, cool place like a closet or pantry, the FDA says.

Bread should be toasted to a light brown color instead of a dark brown color, and very brown areas should not be eaten.

The FDA also recommends eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fat-free or low-fat milk items. Lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts are also recommended.

When choosing other foods, it's always best to go with foods low in saturated fats and trans fats, which can raise "bad" LDL cholesterol and lower "good" HDL cholesterol, as well as increase your risk for a heart attack. Eating items low in cholesterol, sodium and added sugars is also a plus.

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