Danes tend to like their French fries overcooked, or at least browner than the soggy chips the Brits prefer, for example, and it turns out this preference could be increasing the risk of them getting cancer.
Researchers at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) are confident they can confirm what many have long claimed: the darker the chip, the more likely it is to contain high concentrations of acrylamide – a chemical that is linked to cancer risk. All chips begin to create acrylamide when fried, but the concentration is highest in the darker ones.
“Acrylamide is produced when we heat carbohydrate-containing foods such as potatoes at high temperatures,” Pelle Thonning Olesen, a senior adviser at the DTU, told DR Nyheder. “There have been several studies with mice and rats that showed that acrylamide caused cancer in those animals.”
Not too crispy, please
Figures from food watchdog DVFA show that the amount of acrylamide in chips increases significantly the darker they get.
DVFA is currently carrying out an inspection campaign targeting the country’s takeaways to inform them about acrylamide.
“The most important thing is that they do not get the chips too dark,” said Dorthe Licht Cederberg from DVFA. “Only cook then until they are a golden colour.”
Cederberg also said the temperature of the friers should be reduced: the higher the temperature, the greater the amount of acrylamide.
The cancer society Kræftens Bekæmpelse has had acrylamide in its sights for several years. Although the largest amount ingested typically comes from fried potato products, acrylamide is also found in coffee and cereal products.
Takeaways take heed
Studies suggested that women exposed to high levels of acrylamide have a higher risk of breast cancer.
Anja Olsen, a senior researcher at Kræftens Bekæmpelse said that restrictions on frying temperatures should be imposed
“I think it’s natural to put the onus on the food industry,” she said. “Much of the acrylamide we consume we get from foods that are industrially processed, so they should be cooked at lower temperatures for a shorter time.”