This made the second headline in tonight’s news.
Bad (and sad!) news for potato-lovers. At least, according to research conducted by the HK Consumer Council and the Centre for Food Safety, who were prompted by concerns over the health risk posed by the presence of acrylamide in foods. A cancer-causing substance known as acrylamide was found to occur in high levels in snacks cooked in high temperatures such as frying and baking, particularly in carbohydrates. Potato crisps, french fries and biscuits were pinpointed to contain higher levels as compared to wheat-based, rice-based and soy-based foods.
According to the report, latest studies show that acrylamide formation is particularly likely in carbohydrate-rich foods baked or cooked at temperatures above 120 degrees C! This is as opposed to boiling which occurs at a lower temperature.
But, but, baked potatoes!
But, but, fish and chips!
Can you imagine life without these comfort foods? And biscuits! Who hasn’t indulged in more than a tier of biscuits straight from the pack, over a cup of milky tea?
The bad news:
In animal testing, it was found that acrylamide increases the incidences of tumours in various organs and tissues like thyroid gland, adrenal gland, brain, lung and skin.
Possibly not-so-bad news:
Acrylamide is a contaminant generated in the process of cooking, which is not added to food intentionally, its level is therefore affected by various conditions.
So can we avoid the generation of this contaminant by controlling the conditions which affect its levels?
Aargh! Bad news:
Despite its carcinogenicity, JECFA (Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives) concluded that it was not possible to issue recommendations on how much of any specific foods containing the substance is safe to eat.
And I suppose recommendations are meant to be good news?
The only recommendation, nonetheless, is that exposure to acrylamide should be “as low as reasonably achievable”.
The consumer lets out a heavy sigh of sorrow as adds the spud to the list of things he can no longer eat with peace of mind – fish (mercury), fruits and vegetables (pesticides), meat (antibiotics, parasites and viruses), poultry (bird flu)…
Wash everything thoroughly. Cook everything kao-kao. And drink lots of tea (if that is to be believed).
Wait, mash is a result of boiling potato. There’s still hope!