Can Burnt Toast and French Fries cause Cancer? And what is Acrylamide?

A new warning about the health risks of eating browned potatoes and burnt toast draws a link between a chemical called acrylamide and an increased risk of cancer.

The warning comes from the United Kingdom's Food Standards Agency, which launched a campaign on Jan. 23 called "Go for Gold" that's aimed at reducing the amount of acrylamide that people eat. The name refers to the golden color people should aim for when cooking starchy foods, instead of cooking further, to the point of reaching a darker brown color.

Acrylamide is what makes bread and potatoes turn golden in color when fried, baked, toasted or roasted. The compound is formed from simple sugars, such as glucose, reacting with an amino acid, known as asparagine, when these foods are cooked at temperatures above 120 degrees Celsius. Asparagine is found naturally in starchy foods.

If cooked for too long, these foods turn from golden to brown and eventually black. As they do, they produce higher levels of acrylamide, further increasing your cancer risk, as highlighted by the FSA campaign, called "Go for Gold."
The campaign asks people to keep their food golden and not let it cook to those darker colors.

The aim is to increase awareness among the public. Although the research is not new, the agency believes that people remain unaware.

The advice given in the campaign is to:
  • Aim for a yellow or golden brown color when frying, roasting or baking food.
  • Follow cooking instructions on food packages to avoid overcooking.
  • Eat a balanced diet.
  • Avoid keeping potatoes in the fridge before cooking them, as this can further increase acrylamide levels.
  • Boiling or microwaving potatoes, instead of frying them

We at Sure Basics would like to advise all parents to take special care when giving toast and french fries to your little ones and make sure they are golden in color, and not dark or black. And also teach them about this golden color rule when visiting friends and family homes and having a few snacks. Take care and enjoy the journey, with love from the Sure Basics team.