Fry, Fry Again


My article on the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Reason's July issue noted there is little basis for the CSPI-fed alarm about acrylamide, a rodent carcinogen found in baked and fried foods. I mentioned a study in the January 13 British Journal of Cancer that found "no association between consumption of foods high in acrylamide and increased risk" of bladder, large bowel, or kidney cancer. Debra Korn of the American Council on Science and Health cites two more-recent studies that also should reassure people worried about acrylamide in their French fries or potato chips.

An Italian study of 7,000 cancer patients, reported in the International Journal of Cancer, found "no evidence for an interaction between fried and/or baked potato consumption and cancer," Korn writes. A study reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute

found that while acrylamide may interfere with the DNA replication process, possibly leading to mutations and tumor growth, this information cannot be applied to humans or even to grown animals since it was produced in test tube studies. Two researchers from Sweden pointed out, in an accompanying editorial, that the average concentration of acrylamide in human blood is five times lower than the lowest concentration used in the study. Test tube studies often use very high levels of substances, resulting in data that are not entirely applicable to living humans. The scientists also said that the risk from dietary acrylamide is small and that they would not recommend changing dietary guidelines.

NEXT: Kerry, We Hardly Knew Ye

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  1. What saddens me most of all is that people don’t automatically expect this kind of thing, and haven’t completely turned away from the media for the reporting of anything remotely scientific or medical. Jesus, the people are absolutely stunningly incapable of knowing fact from fiction, and they might not even care.

    I’m somewhat sure the government school system is at least partially responsible for this kind of thing, but that goes without saying.

  2. Yesterday I learned that neckties would cause glaucoma. I believe everything I read in the newspapers.

    “Abandon Hope, all ye who enter here”

  3. I actually believe that most of the public has become completely desensitized to these scare campaigns. I didn’t notice the fried food acrylamide campaign making any traction at all.

  4. Man, I sure hope so.

    Often I’ll hear people saying salt is bad for you…but now that you mention it, you know when they do it? When they are salting their food.

    So it seems they might just make some people uncomfortable. Most people it seems might talk about it, but don’t do anything about it. Shwew.

  5. Well, Josh, at least Reason printed it! I’ve seen a lot of complaining recently about Reason and Hit & Run, and I’m certainly guilty of criticizing, but I’d like to say that I still think it’s a top-notch operation. Everyone has a bias of some form or another but it seems like there is less here than most places. A complaint that I recently made towards an article that H&R linked to, that it was so full of bullshit that I couldn’t finish it, is a problem that I’ve never had with any Reason article.

  6. Well, fortunately the news is all over this, making sure the publics’ fears are put to rest.

    Oh wait, nevermind. The news is ignoring this – no panic, no print, I guess.

  7. My general impression of most of the ‘public’ opinion is that they are so used to the news media reporting one day that substance A will kill you, then later reporting the A isn’t as bad as we thought, and might even be good for you, that everyone takes these news items with a grain of salt. (This is of course based on my highly scientific method of talking to people I happen to know)

    Personally, I subscribe to the motto of moderation in all things. I figure even in the cases of proven harm, it’s excess that causes the strongest statistical link. And some things, like alcohol for instance, and most vitamins and minerals, are good for you in limited quantities, so ruling out anything based on the latest food scare is probably harmful.

  8. Jim – a better motto is, don’t ever listen to anything that the CSPI says. The CSPI won’t rest until we’re all hippies living off the land, eating only roots, nuts, and granola.

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