A team of researchers headed by Margareta Törnqvist from the University of Stockholm have discovered that acrylamide, a carcinogen substance, is formed by heating starch-rich foods to high temperatures. Especially fried, oven-baked and deep-fried potato and cereal products may contain high levels of acrylamide. No acrylamide was found in boiled foodstuffs.
This new knowledge has led the Swedish National Food Administration (NFA) to develop a new method for the analysis of acrylamide in food. A study of more than one hundred random samples of different foodstuffs showed considerable variation of acrylamide levels within each food group. However, many of the foodstuffs that contained high levels of acrylamide, such as potato crisps, French fries, fried potatoes, biscuits and bread, are consumed in large quantities. It may be possible to reduce the acrylamide levels by changing the methods of production and preparation.
Dr. Leif Busk, Head of the NFA’s Research and Development Department commented that this new knowledge may enable scientists to explain some of the cases of cancer caused by food.
At present there is insufficient data to warrant changing the current dietary recommendations, said the NFA. Frying at high temperatures or for a long time and eating a lot of fat-rich products (French fries and crisps) should be avoided. It is preferable to use mild food preparation methods and to eat more fibre-rich foods (cereal products, fruit and vegetables).