Three years ago Brown's predecessor Bill Lockyer sued fast-food chains and potato companies on the grounds that they had failed to warn California consumers about the dangers of acrylamide. The companies avoided trial by agreeing to pay a combined $3 million in fines and reduce the levels of acrylamide, a carcinogenic chemical in their products over three years, officials said.
"Other companies should follow this lead," Attorney General Jerry Brown said, hailing the settlement "a victory for public health and safety in California."
In January, Procter & Gamble consented to reduce acrylamide by 50 percent in Pringles potato chips. McDonald's, KFC, Wendy's and Burger King agreed last year to post warnings about acrylamide in chips and fries on their labels.
When potatoes and other starchy foods are cooked at high temperatures acrylamide is produced. It is used for industrial purposes such as treating sewage, and its presence in food was not known in 1990 when California listed the chemical as a cancer-causing substance under Proposition 65.
In 2002, Swedish scientists discovered high levels of cancer-causing chemical acrylamide in fried potato products.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is exploring the problem of acrylamide in fried potatoes but has not resorted to any formal action. The FDA's website advises consumers that acrylamide can be reduced by not over-browning potatoes while cooking.