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Lawsuit Over Cancer Causing Chemical in Potato Chips Settled

Posted by Jenny Albano
Tuesday, August 05, 2008 3:52 AM EST
Category: Protecting Your Family
Tags: Toxic Chemicals, Acrylamide, Cancer, Major Medical, Defective and Dangerous Products, FDA

lawsuit over acrylamide in chips settled

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©iStockphoto/crisps/author: Ever

Several potato chip companies, including Frito-Lay, Heinz, Kettle Foods, and Lance Inc., have agreed to lower levels of acrylamide, a chemical that may cause cancer, in their products to settle a lawsuit filed by the state’s attorney general in 2005.

This settlement comes three years after Attorney General Jerry Brown’s predecessor, Bill Lockyer, filed a lawsuit against fast-food chains claiming that they did not warn California consumers of the dangers of the chemical. Wendy’s, KFC, Burger King and McDonald’s all agreed to pay fines and label their products with the appropriate warning, Proposition 65.

In this settlement, Frito-Lay, Kettle Foods, and Lance Inc. agreed to reduce acrylamide to 275 parts per billion in three years, a low enough level to avoid a Proposition 65 warning label. That means a 20% reduction for Frito-Lay chips and an 87% reduction for Kettle Chips. Only one product from Lance Inc., Cape Cod Robust Russets, will require a warning label. The companies also agreed to pay nearly $2 million in penalties and costs.

In another settlement last week, Heinz agreed to cut in half the acrylamide levels in Ore-Ida frozen french fries and tater tots and pay $600,000 in penalties and costs.

Proposition 65 is a California law that has been in effect since 1986 to promote clean drinking water and keep toxic substances that cause cancer and birth defects out of consumer products. The law requires companies to post exposure warnings on producys and substances that can cause cancer.

Acrylamide was listed as a cancer-causing substance in 1990 because of its use for treating sewage. The chemicals presence in food was unknown until a Swedish study detected it in 2002.

Acrylamide is a chemical that can form in potatoes and some starchy foods during high-temperature cooking processes, such as frying, roasting, and baking. Acrylamide in food forms from sugars and an amino acid that are naturally present in food and does not come from food packaging or the environment.

In some studies, acrylamide caused cancer in animals that were exposed to the chemical at very high doses. The chemical causes nerve damage in people exposed to very high levels at work. So far, the FDA has not determined the exact public health impact, if any, of acrylamide from the lower levels found in foods such as chips, bread, french fries, and coffee. The FDA is conducting research studies to determine whether acrylamide in food is a risk to consumers’ health.

Recent studies conducted in the Netherlands found evidence that this chemical has been linked to more types of cancer. A study conducted on nearly 21,000 participants between the ages of 55 and 70 found that those who ate the highest amount of acrylamide had a 59% greater risk for kidney cancer than those who ate the least acrylamide. Cancers of the kidney, bladder and prostate were found in a 13-year follow up with the participants.

In a similar study, researchers found that postmenopausal, nonsmoking women who consumed the most acrylamide had an increased risk for ovarian and endometrial cancer. The study was published December of 2007 in the journal Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention and the latest findings appear in the May issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.


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