The food writer and campaigner Joanna Blythman has described the Food Standards Agency’s ‘go for gold’ campaign on acrylamide as a “fiasco” that distracts from the biggest exposure risk.
A number of scientific studies have identified acrylamide – a chemical produced by cooking food at high temperature – as a carcinogen in laboratory animals. One study conducted in Holland has suggested that acrylamide could increase cancer risks in humans. The FSA campaign – which warns consumers against eating burnt toast and ‘over crispy’ roast potatoes (hence ‘go for gold’) – was launched early this year in response to the growing body of research on acrylamide linking it to raised cancer risks.
Blytham notes that 2007 HEATOX (Heat-generated food toxicant, identification, characterization and risk minimization) project concluded that acrylamide present in home-cooked food was “relatively small when compared with industrially or restaurant-prepared foods”.
Commenting on FSA assurances that “the processed food industry has changed its preparation methods to lower potential risk”, she writes: “How does it know this when manufacturers don’t have to measure, let alone report, their acrylamide levels?”
Picture: FSA picture guidance on the safe colour for toast (or ‘warm bread’ as some have called it)