Acrylamide: Doubt or Danger?

Armen Hareyan's picture

With all the concerns about what is in our food and how we are to prepare it, along comes another controversial finding that might want to make you throw up your spatula in disgust and surrender.

In 2002, Swedish scientists announced the discovery of high levels of acrylamide in cooked, starchy foods. Based on animal studies, acrylamide is a suspected human carcinogen.

Acrylamide is an odorless, free-flowing, white crystalline used as a chemical in water treatment, enhanced oil recovery, paper making, and soil conditioning. It is water soluble and is considered an agent of irritation to the skin, eyes, nose and throat.


Current research shows that acrylamide forms during traditional cooking methods, e.g., baking, frying, and roasting, although how acrylamide is formed in food during the coking process is not clear. Foods that are rich in glucose and amino acid asparagines can form acrylamide when cooked at high temperatures. Time and temperature of cooking are important factors in the development of acrylamide in food.

After the Swedish results, food and health communities began an effort to characterize the risk to humans from acrylamide in foods. Projects are underway in Europe, Canada, Japan, Australia, and the United Sates to understand the toxicology in humans and how to minimize the formation of acrylamide during cooking and processing of food.

But are the alarms warranted?

Studies and many health gurus have stated that the problem and dangers are blown out of proportion. Some studies showed that a human would have to consume 350,000 potato chips a day to reach a level where acrylamide would cause any danger.

A cancer study by Harvard