Yet again the French fries seem to be entangled in a health controversy now in China. Scientists in China have found that acrylamide, a probable human cancer causing agent, in potato fries exceeds the limit in drinking water set by the World Health Organization (WHO) by 500 times.
The Chinese Ministry of Health said that measures have been taken to control the possible harm of fried-food-borne acrylamide in humans.
In April, the Chinese Ministry of Health published an assessment report on the risk of acrylamide saying that tests in animals have indicated that acrylamide is a known probable human carcinogen. Recently, scientists have found that potato fries possess acrylamide at levels 500 times higher than that allowed in drinking water set by the WHO.
The Ministry of Health particularly reminds the public that based on the results from a Chinese food contaminant surveillance program, high levels of acrylamide are present in fried potatoes, malt tea, instant coffee, maize tea, fried grain-based foods, and baked grain foods. The real content of acrylamide varies depending upon the type of food, cooking time and temperature.
Acrylamide could potentially cause cancer in humans. Animal tests suggest such a probability. Epidemiological studies on professional exposure to acrylamide found that long term exposure to low doses of acrylamide can cause a range of health conditions including sleepiness, disturbed emotion, and memory loss, among others.
The Chinese actions may be prompted by the high profile media attention of the California lawsuit against fast-food giants. Last Friday, California Attorney-General Bill Lockyer filed a suit to request nine snack and fast-food providers to put a warning over the presence of acrylamide in some of their foods.
The lawsuit received a strong response from the food industry, resulting in a lawsuit being filed by a group to request California to withdraw its original lawsuit. The opponents of the California lawsuit say that the harm of acrylamide in humans is uncertain and a warning may unduly scare consumers away from the food products with high levels of acrylamide, which will affect the food business.
Further actions could also cause the elimination of fries from Chinese markets. This time can only tell.
As of now the battle between the administration and food industry goes on.