French fries and potato chips are common parts of children’s menus in fast food restaurants, school cafeterias and fine dining establishments. Early in the year 2002 we learned that these familiar foods (along with others, such as sugary breakfast cereals) contain high levels of a toxic, carcinogenic byproduct called acrylamide. It is not found in the uncooked foods.
The October 3, 2002 issue of Natureoffers important clues to where this acrylamide comes from. It seems to be formed when an amino acid called asparagine gets too hot in certain ways (such as frying). The presence of sugar at the high temperature raises the risk. Potatoes’ amino acids are 40 percent asparagine (compared to wheat at only 14 percent). Boiled potatoes are fine; some sugar-coated wheat cereals are not.
On September 30, 2002 the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) set in motion their plan to identify and eliminate or at least reduce acrylamide in the food supply in as few months as possible.
I am pleased that they are now seriously intent on finding a solution. In the meantime, I cannot recommend that children eat French fries or potato chips. The benefits simply do not outweigh the risks.
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