Potato Chips: Now With Fewer Carcinogens!

Four major potato chip makers have agreed to use less of the carcinogen Acrylamide under a settlement with the California Attorney General’s office. Frito-Lay, Heinz, Kettle Foods, and Lance Inc. also agreed to pay a $3 million fine for flouting state laws that require companies to place warning labels on products with carcinogens.

Acrylamide forms naturally when starchy foods are baked or fried. Studies have shown the chemical, which also has industrial uses, causes cancer in lab animals and nerve damage to workers who are exposed to high levels. The Food and Drug Administration is researching whether acrylamide in food poses a health risk.

”Everybody’s trying to figure out how to lower levels (of acrylamide) without significantly, adversely affecting taste,” said Michele Corish, an attorney for Lance, which produces Cape Cod chips.

Corish said the modified snacks will be available nationwide. Messages left with the other three companies were not immediately returned Friday night.

The attorney general’s office said the levels of acrylamide in most Cape Cod chips are already near the compliance level as defined by the settlement. However, Brown said Cape Cod Robust Russets contain 25 times the acceptable amount.

Corish said ”Robust Russets” chips are no longer being sold.

Pringles was not included in the settlement because they are not potato chips, and Proctor & Gamble along with McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, and KFC agreed back in 2005 to either “properly label their products or lower levels of the chemical.”

Settlement will reduce carcinogens in potato chips [AP]
(Photo: Getty)

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  1. ReidFleming says:

    You know, if we just cured cancer, this would be a non-issue and we could enjoy life so much more. Remember when french fries were cooked in animal fat? Those were the (oh-so-tasty) days.

  2. flakeyblakee says:

    mmmm Salty goodness… Now with less Cancer!

  3. Jandek says:

    I think that implying “chips cause cancer” is a bit much.

  4. tedyc03 says:

    @Jandek: That may be but I still feel a bit nervous that chips had carciongens in the first place…

  5. mayrc87 says:

    These days everything causes cancer.

  6. GreatCaesarsGhost says:

    Yeah, but according to Jay Slatkin ([consumerist.com]) that law is worthless because Californians would just ignore the warning if it was there.

  7. snoop-blog says:

    what isn’t known to the state of California to cause cancer?

  8. golfinggiraffe says:

    @Jandek: You’re right. It’s more like, “Cooking methods that involve high temperatures – like frying – generate carcinogens in your food”. Happier now?

  9. varro says:

    @snoop-blog: Cigarettes are not known to the State of California to cause cancer.

    I guess it’s safe for me to eat potato chips, since I live in Oregon.

  10. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    @snoop-blog: Will Smith? Does he have a warning label?

  11. snoop-blog says:

    @doctor_cos: What would they warn people? That he’s a nice guy and does family movies? I don’t know why everybody hates on him. He’s not even close to my favorite actor, but if he wants to not curse, and to set a good example for today’s youth, unlike Lohan, Cyrus, Spears and the likes, I say more power to him.

  12. scerwup says:

    Carcinogens are the vehicle by which flavor travels…..

    MMMMMM… cancer

  13. Skipweasel says:

    I think it’s a bit unfair to suggest the makers “use” acrylamides. They may have taken steps to reduce the levels, but it’s not like they put them there on purpose.

  14. @scerwup: fact.

  15. synergy says:

    We have acrylamide at work. We don’t handle it without gloves. Nice.

  16. sean77 says:

    @mayrc87: True. Everything causes cancer.

    The sun is responsible for more cancer deaths than anything else, including cigarettes.

    That said, they need to do more testing on acrylamide. Otherwise we’ll end up with another misclassified chemical like saccharine, aspartame and DDT. Once something get’s labeled as a carcinogen, it is really difficult to reverse the classification.

  17. DanPVD says:

    But Robust Russet was the best! :(

  18. lordargent says:

    causes cancer in lab animals and nerve damage to workers who are exposed to high levels

    1) Define “high levels”.

    2) Since they’re formed from baking/frying starchy foods, wouldn’t that also apply to anything starchy that I cooked on my own? (for example, my deep fried potato wedges, mmmm).

  19. lordargent says:

    If only he had listened to Ice Cube.

    “It’s so hard to get a room without a credit card
    It’s so hard not to let em know who you are
    Tried to get a rent a car
    But he laughed when I showed him cash
    Had to mash ‘fore he called the feds on my ass”

  20. lordargent says:

    /oops, wrong tab

  21. pixiegirl1 says:

    What about the people who work in these chip factories, wont someone please thing of the people that work in the chip factories?! I wonder if their insurance plans cover work-related cancer from carcinogens in the products they make?

    Come on people I think we should know by now that anything that tastes remotely good is more often than not nutritionally bad for us. If we want death by potato chip let us be!!! When will we let people become responsible for what we put into our own bodies? /end of rant.

  22. Acrylamide forms naturally when starchy foods are baked or fried.

    So then acrylamide has been around in our food since we discovered that we can use fire to cook things. This is suddenly a problem, how?

    The heap of sour cream and bacon I load onto a baked potato is far worse for me than any naturally occurring acrylamide in it.

  23. Hongfiately says:

    @Employees Must Wash Hands: Your problem is baking and frying. You should boil, instead. :)

    I’d like to see an examination of the cancer cases linked to excessive labeling requirements. Berryman’s B-12 Chemtool had (probably still does) a label on it that said something like, “This product is known to the State of California to cause cancer,” or some such. I was buying it in Texas, but the government of California, in its wisdom, thought I needed to know.

  24. femmesavante says:

    FYI: Her name is Michèle Corash, and she rocks!

  25. lordargent says:

    Hongfiately : Your problem is baking and frying. You should boil steam, instead. :)

    I couldn’t stand most veggies as a kid growing up. It wasn’t until I moved out and started cooking for myself that I realized why.

    Boiled vegetables are nasty.

    /I steam everything in a steamer pot now.

  26. she-ray says:

    I’m popping thalidomide, potato chips, and red dye no.3, as i type away from my suntanning station, sans-sun screen, on top of a cellular tower.

    come smoke with me! Don’t give in to ‘health terrorists’ who would have you believe their ‘scientific research’ will help you ‘live longer’ with a ‘better quality of life’.

    Not only do they hate America, but, as we all know, they’re not ‘discovering existing carcinogens in the food supply’ but actually creating them. why else would everything cause cancer ‘these days’?

  27. TobiasFoote says:

    Um, maybe I missed this or someone already mentioned this…

    Acrylamides aren’t just chemicals that you pour into the oil or
    potatoes to make them taste better.

    Acrylamides are formed when you cook high-starch (potato) content in
    oil in high heat. Same reason why a while back, french fries were
    controversial.

  28. DoctorMD says:

    This is the biggest piece of BS ever from the “Where the sun don’t shine State” Glad I got out of that cesspool of stupidity. They still need to figure out how to reduce the levels. ”Everybody’s trying to figure out how to lower levels (of acrylamide) without significantly, adversely affecting taste,”

    Where are the warnings on ALL alcoholic beverages that it causes breast cancer, where on the warnings on ALL salted, cured or smoked food that it causes stomach cancer. This a natural byproduct of a very common cooking technique.

    They will probably need to add some artificial chemicals to inhibit the creation of acrylamide. Well 40 million stupid morons living in warm weather can’t be wrong.

  29. robbiemd says:

    Yes acrylamide has been ASSOCIATED with cancer in lab animals. In humans the data is unclear at best. For an interesting look at the acrylamide levels in common foods, check out the FDA testing results in common food items. Yes, it’s present in coffee.
    There used to be a non-caffeinated coffee substitute called Postum made by Kraft. They quietly and abruptly took it off the market in 2007 after 100 years of production. Was it because the non-brewed form had the highest measured level of acrylamide of any food item tested? Enquiring minds want to know.

    [www.foodproductiondaily.com]

  30. S-the-K says:

    OMG! Potato chips have Acrylamide!? How long have potato chips been around? How many people have had potato chips in their life time? Why hasn’t the entire population of America and large portions of the world not gone instinct due to the deadly deadly Acrylamide? Or maybe it has already and we’re living in the Matrix and we don’t know it.

    I’d bet a dollar that this Acrylamide scare is no different than the Alar scare. I’d lay odds that one has to consume a dozen bags of potato chips per meal every day for a dozen years to accumulate enough Acrylamide to increase one’s risk of cancer above “unlikely”.

  31. diablodevil2 says:

    I scanned over the article a bit, and my first thought is ‘damn, now I want some doritos’. That’s kinda bad >.>;

  32. Hongfiately says:

    @lordargent: It’s no fun unless you boil out all nutrients and any sense of taste and texture… blech! We steam our veggies, too. Convection is good for a homemade snack.

  33. papahoth says:

    Utz, the best, Herrs, Martins, etc., all from the great potato chip state of PA, and all have always been all natural and better tasting than those nasty brands.

  34. failurate says:

    Damn! Cape Cod Robust Russets are delish. I just polished off two bags a week ago. Are they worth dieing for? Probably not. Would I have bought them if they had the label on them? Definitely not. How do I get some of that $money$ (without actually getting sick or dieing)?

    @papahoth: I don’t think being all natural has much to do with the acrylamide.

  35. failurate says:

    @pixiegirl1: We should be responsible for what we eat. But, should we know all the details about everything we eat, especially when prepared by someone else? If someone asked the average person about the chemical break down of a potato chip, what would be common answers?

  36. lordargent says:

    S-the-K: large portions of the world not gone instinct

    I have a strong instinctual urge to laugh at this.

    Hongfiately: It’s no fun unless you boil out all nutrients and any sense of taste and texture… blech! We steam our veggies, too. Convection is good for a homemade snack.

    Can’t you drink the water after boiling the veggies to get those nutrients back?

  37. fluf says:

    Canada has already spent millions to test if Acrylamide is a threat to health they determined it doesn’t cause any damage or cancer or anything.

    Unless you drank a pint of acrylic paint then yes!
    By all means, call a doctor!

  38. Sockatume says:

    You don’t “use” acrylamide in making potato chips. Acrylamide is formed by the maillard reactions which cause food to brown. So they’re not going to “use less”, they’re just going to have to undercook the chips.