The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has published a report with a public health concern. When a friend overcooks something on the barbeque or the bread was left just a bit too long in the toaster, I would normally ‘sacrifice’ myself by eating the ‘cancer’. Technically, I am not wrong. The burnt parts are hot spots for acrylamide, a chemical which forms when sugar and amino acid found naturally in foods like potatoes and cereal grains are cooked at temperatures above 150 degrees. It can be found in cookies, crackers, coffee and some baby food that contains processed bran.
The EFSA labs had this tested with animals and noticed that the ones with a heavy concentration of acrylamide in their diet can cause DNA mutations (which can lead to cancer). However, studies involving humans have had limited and inconsistent results. People exposed to it in an industrial setting have suffered from nervous system issues, caused by skin exposure to high levels of acrylamide.
Though the results are inconclusive, if you want to reduce the potential risk, the ACS recommends boiling potatoes, which results in less acrylamide formation than roasting or frying. They also suggest lightly toasting your breads—no dark spots. For coffee, it is recommended to drink dark roast coffee instead of light, because acrylamide forms during the first minutes of roasting and then degrades as the roasting process continues.
As an avid and passionate coffee drinker, I am glad I do not have to completely abstain from coffee. That would be bad.
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