Regulating potato chip recipes

by Walter Olson on August 5, 2008

Readers will recall that acrylamide is a naturally occurring substance formed when many foods are browned or otherwise cooked and that (like countless other constituents of common foods) it appears to cause cancer in some animals at high dosages. California attorney general Jerry Brown has now reached a settlement with some large food companies that will require them to revise recipes for potato chips, French fries and other wares to reduce acrylamide content. Fun fact: one of the ways they may accomplish this goal is by artificially adding a chemical (OK, an enzyme) which works to neutralize acrylamide’s precursors. (Rosie Mestel, “Booster Shots” blog, L.A. Times, Aug. 4).

More: Bill Childs adds, “Oh, and the companies will pay California around $2.5 million.”

{ 4 comments }

1 Jim W 08.05.08 at 10:56 am

What would be funny is if the anti-acrylamide chemical caused even worse cancer.

I’m reminded of that old Sealab 2021 episode where Marco ate whale cancer.

2 kushiro 08.05.08 at 11:53 am

I’d say that’s fairly unlikely to happen, Jim, given the process involved. The enzyme (which is, yes, a “chemical”, but then so is water) is added prior to the cooking process, to get rid of the precursor (in this case, an amino acid called asparagine). The subsequent heating would be more than enough to denature the enzyme (i.e. cause it to lose the 3D shape, thus rendering it unable to function).

Whether or not the levels of acrylamide present in heated foods — and whatever associated risk of negative health effects — really call for this process is, of course, another story.

3 Deoxy 08.06.08 at 10:33 am

What would be funny is if the anti-acrylamide chemical caused even worse cancer.

Actually, that’s not funny anymore. It was funny the first time, maybe the second, but it’s happened so many times now that it is A) no longer funny, and B) completely expected. What would be funny is if it DIDN’T cause more problems than it claims to solve.

4 Ralph 08.07.08 at 8:28 am

We just need to stop cooking food, and eat “naturally”, and then all of our problems would go away.

Yeah, sure…

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