World Health Organization (WHO) food safety experts start three days of meetings this week to probe reports that potato chips, French fries and other carbohydrate-rich foods contain a cancer-causing substance.
The meeting follows findings by Swedish scientists this spring that acrylamide, well known as a likely cancer-causing agent, is formed when rice, potatoes and cereals are fried or baked.
Stockholm University researchers found that an ordinary bag of potato chips may contain up to 500 times more acrylamide than the maximum concentration the WHO allows in drinking water. Since then, the United Kingdom and Norwegian national food agencies have also published similar findings.
Suspect foods emerging from the studies were those containing a lot of starch that are treated at relatively high temperatures, above 356 degrees Fahrenheit. The cancers caused in animals include those of the digestive tract as well as mammary and testicular glands, he added.
The US Environmental Protection Agency classifies acrylamide as a "medium hazard probable human carcinogen." Acrylamide is used in some colorings and glues, as well as for water purification.
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