Acrylamide chemical linked to cancer found in crisps
Raised levels of a chemical linked to cancer have been found in numerous everyday foods – including that Ulster favourite, Tayto cheese and onion crisps.
A report by the Foods Standards Agency (FSA) found increased levels of acrylamide in a number of everyday brands sold by some of the UK's biggest retailers and fast food outlets.
Acrylamide is formed when foods are roasted, toasted or fried at very high temperature. Scientists have said it is potentially carcinogenic if consumed regularly over a lifetime.
The FSA has stressed that it does not consider the levels of chemical found to be dangerous .
A spokesman said: "We will work with the relevant local authority to encourage food manufacturers to review their acrylamide reduction strategies."
The watchdog said there is no need for the public to give up the foods named in its survey. But it gave advice on reducing exposure, including cooking chips to a light golden colour while advising that "bread should be toasted to the lightest colour acceptable".
Manufacturers have suggested the problem was caused by last year's bad weather which changed sugar levels in potatoes, which in turn created more acrylamide.
A low level of the chemical was found in a 12-pack of Tayto crisps bought in a store in Larne, according to the survey.
Raised levels were found in Tesco bran flakes, Sainsbury’s wholegrain bran flakes, KFC fries, Fox’s Ginger biscuits and TUC biscuits.
Other crisp brands included Tesco ready salted crisps, Pipers Anglesey sea salt crisps and Co-op’s Sea Salt and Chardonnay crisps.
A spokeswoman for Tandragee-based Tayto said the problem was widespread and the industry, as a whole, was working to address it.
She said: "Acrylamide is a chemical produced naturally when food is cooked at high temperatures, so can occur when food is grilled, fried, baked or roasted. It happens whether the food is made at home or by a company.
"We would emphasise the fact that this particular survey is a snapshot and that the FSA has confirmed that the results do not increase concern about risk to human health.
"The levels found in potato crisps are dependent upon a wide range of factors, not least the natural variability between individual potatoes and across seasons.
"As a company we have worked hard to reduce levels in our products and continue to invest significant resources to address the issue of acrylamide, particularly through participation in crop research programmes, experimenting with reducing cooking temperatures and the introduction of new food processing procedures and technologies."
The FSA says that acrylamide is formed in food as a result of cooking and processing at temperatures above 120C. It is formed from a chemical reaction between natural components in food, the amino acid, asparagine and naturally present sugars. It is less likely to occur in foods cooked at lower temperatures for short periods, such as boiled potatoes. There is a concern that acrylamide could cause cancer in humans if consumed in exceptionally high doses.