Toxic Toast? The 411 on Acrylamide

By Alan Greene, MD, FAAP

Posted on | By Alan Greene, MD, FAAP

You’re probably well aware that carbs like French fries, potato chips and white bread can be empty calories that help you pack on the pounds. But did you know they can also contain a toxic by-product of the cooking process that’s been linked to cancer?

The substance is called acrylamide. It’s an industrial chemical known to increase infertility and neurological problems at high doses. The EPA regulates acrylamide in drinking water to protect public health. But it’s not regulated in food.

We haven’t known about its presence in food for long – because it’s not an ingredient or a contaminant. How does it get there? Here’s how: Certain natural sugars and certain natural protein building blocks become fused together to form acrylamide when temperatures top 250°F (typical toasters top 300°F). Many foods don’t have the right combo of nutrients to produce acrylamide, even when cooked for a long time, but a few very popular ones do.

Here are the top foods to be aware of:

  • French fries and potato chips
  • Crackers
  • Toasted breakfast cereals
  • Cookies
  • Bread

And, the browner the toast or cereal or potato, the more acrylamide it likely contains.

Article written by Alan Greene, MD, FAAP