This topic smacks right back to earlier days, and the Edwina Currie scaremongering of eggs. Poor eggs hadn’t done anything wrong, and I was pretty sure that slightly charred food was going to be in the same league….
No point in me just blustering though, as without any evidence, our ‘gut’ feeling isn’t ever going to be enough. Most of us older people are probably not going to bat much of an eyelid at the claim, but for new mothers, or those with younger children, it probably did cause many of them a right worrying day or two. And the news since, hasn’t toned it down much either.
And really, how on earth did burnt toast and poor roast potatoes, our Christmas staple, become linked with cancer?
If you read the Guardian, we find out about acrylamide and a 1997 happening in Sweden where cows dropped dead, fish floated lifeless and construction workers became ill. A subsequent study later showed that the control group also had acrylamide in their systems and that it’s probably present in our environment in some way, despite the chemical being toxic and not found naturally in animals. The link was eventually found to ‘probably’ be in processed food, more likely in starchy foods like bread and potatoes, cooked at high temperatures.
The Food Standards Agency
Acrylamide is a chemical substance formed by a reaction between amino acids and sugars. It typically occurs when foods with high starch content such as potatoes, root vegetables and bread, are cooked at high temperatures (over 120°C) in a process of frying, roasting or baking.
Acrylamide is not deliberately added to foods, it is a natural by-product of the cooking process and has always been present in our food.
The Food Standards Agency released their Go For Gold campaign. You can read about it here, from the 27th January. It aims to minimise harmful levels of acrylamide in our own cooking at home, by:
- Aiming for a light colour when frying, baking, toasting or roasting starchy foods.
- Checking the pack for cooking instructions and following them.
- Eating a balanced diet, with a mix of foods.
- Asking us not to keep raw potatoes in the fridge, as they say, keeping potatoes in a fridge can increase acrylamide levels.
Is There A Cancer Risk From Eating Burnt Starchy Foods?
How long is a piece of string? I have no idea. Everywhere I have looked, uses the words ‘possible,’ ‘probably,’ or ‘unlikely in daily living.’ Studies are likely to have been carried out at levels far above the consumption of humans, but we don’t know for certain. Acrylamide could be classed as a possible carcinogen, but then again, so can many other things.
The advice not to burn toast, is likely just a help, to not compound any possible levels inside our bodies already.
Should We Stop Eating High Starchy Foods?
None of us can tell anyone else what they should or shouldn’t eat. It’s very much a personal choice and we have to look at the potential, then weigh up the risks for ourselves and our families. For me, that would be daft. Bread and potatoes are almost a whole food group in our house.
What Do I Think?