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No One Knows -- Or is Telling You -- How Much Toxins Are in Your Potato Chips

Interested in knowing how much of the known carcinogen acrylamide was in her brand of potato chips after searches on the FDA's Web site came up empty, a curious consumer was told by the manufacturer to provide a letter from her doctor first. That was a bad move by the potato chip producer, considering the woman's father-in-law works for the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).

Her inquiry was responsible, in part, for launching a CSPI inquiry into the acrylamide levels of 30 products. No manufacturer could provide any current information, and the most recent data available from the FDA on acrylamide levels was two years old. That prompted a letter from CSPI to the agency asking them to mandate the updated reporting of acrylamide in major food brands.

No surprise, the FDA claims it is researching the problem, but doesn't believe "additional sampling will improve our exposure assessment significantly." Also blurring the argument in the eyes of federal regulators: French fry samples from seven different McDonald's restaurants yielded varying amounts of acrylamide.

Still, CSPI estimates a 6-ounce serving of French fries contains about 60 micrograms of acrylamide and a 1-ounce portion of Cheerios has 7 micrograms, both amounts created after being cooked in oils at high temperatures. Also, lost in the argument: Acrylamide causes cancer in lab animals at high doses.

The presence of acrylamide and other currently unrecognized toxins are good reasons why you should avoid processed foods as often as possible. Ideally, more than half of the foods you eat should be raw. Knowing it takes time to make a change like that, you can get a good start by avoiding foods that have no nutritional value, like fries, chips, sugary soft drinks and doughnuts.

San Francisco Chronicle January 3, 2007

Yahoo News January 3, 2006