Overcooking Starchy Foods Could Increase Cancer Risk
Food safety officials warn that overcooking starchy foods should be avoided as it may increase your risk of cancer. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) stresses that when certain foods are cooked until browned or burnt, it increases levels of a cancer-causing chemical called acrylamide.
Acrylamide forms during cooking as a result of a reaction between amino acids and sugars, which usually occurs in foods with a high starch content. This reaction is linked with cooking at high temperatures, whether from frying, roasting, baking or any other cooking method.
The FSA says that well-cooked potatoes, chips and even toast are among the foods which can contain relatively high acrylamide levels. Laboratory tests showed that these higher levels were present in chips cooked until dark brown and toast with some burnt bits. Generally, the crisper the food is, the more acrylamide is likely to be present.
Experts advise the public to cook chips only to a light golden colour, toast bread to the lightest acceptable colour and follow the manufacturers’ instructions for frying and heating foods. These simple precautions will help you limit the amount of acrylamide you consume.
Further research is needed before scientists can establish safe levels of the chemical in food and determine a recommended maximum amount.
“Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of some of the microbiological risks associated with food,” says the Chief Scientific Advisor’s Science Report by Professor Guy Poppy. “I hope that this report helps to demonstrate that we are working with other government departments and our expert advisory committees to take an holistic approach to food safety that also addresses chemical risks. All of this work supports our aim to deliver food we can trust.”