The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) announced yesterday that it had teamed up with Olympian Denise Lewis to offer advice on minimising levels of the potentially harmful chemical in home cooking.
FSA hopes to help people understand how to minimise exposure to a possible carcinogen called acrylamide when cooking at home.
Acrylamide is a chemical that is created when many foods, particularly starchy foods like potatoes and bread, are cooked for long periods at high temperatures, such as when baking, frying, grilling, toasting and roasting. The scientific consensus is that acrylamide has the potential to cause cancer in humans.
The FSA has teamed up with Olympic gold medallist and mother of four, Denise Lewis, to empower people to make small changes to how they cook, to help minimise acrylamide consumption in the home:
- Go for Gold – as a general rule of thumb, aim for a golden yellow colour or lighter when frying, baking, toasting or roasting starchy foods like potatoes, root vegetables and bread.
- Check the pack – follow the cooking instructions carefully when frying or oven-heating packaged food products such as chips, roast potatoes and parsnips. The on-pack instructions are designed to cook the product correctly. This ensures that you aren't cooking starchy foods for too long or at temperatures which are too high.
- Eat a varied and balanced diet – while we can't completely avoid risks like acrylamide in food, eating a healthy, balanced diet that includes basing meals on starchy carbohydrates and getting your "5 A Day" [consumption of at least five portions of fruit and vegetables each day] will help reduce your risk of cancer.
- Don't keep raw potatoes in the fridge - if you intend to roast or fry them. Storing raw potatoes in the fridge can increase overall acrylamide levels. Raw potatoes should ideally be stored in a dark, cool place at temperatures above 6°C.
Commenting on her involvement with the 'Go for Gold' campaign, Denise Lewis said, "As a mum, the wellbeing of my family is my top priority, particularly when it comes to the meals I cook for them at home. With so many factors to consider, it's great that the FSA is helping people to understand the changes we can make to reduce acrylamide in the food we eat regularly at home."
The FSA is launching the 'Go for Gold' campaign following findings from its Total Diet Study, published on Monday (See: Cut cancer risk: fry, roast or bake till golden, not brown) . The results confirm that people in the UK currently consume higher levels of the chemical than is desirable.
Steve Wearne, Director of Policy at the Food Standards Agency, said, "Our research indicates that the majority of people are not aware that acrylamide exists, or that they might be able to reduce their personal intake. We want our 'Go for Gold' campaign to highlight the issue so that consumers know how to make the small changes that may reduce their acrylamide consumption whilst still eating plenty of starchy carbohydrates and vegetables as recommended in government healthy eating advice.
"Although there is more to know about the true extent of the acrylamide risk, there is an important job for Government, industry and others to do to help reduce acrylamide intake. This campaign is part of the FSA's wider work to reduce the level of acrylamide that people consume.
"The FSA is continuing to work closely with the food industry to reduce acrylamide in the food you buy, including the development of practical tools like an industry toolkit and codes of practice which will be embedded throughout the food chain.