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Avoid acrylamide: FDA warns against chemical found in many fried foods

French Fries

 (iStock)

One week after proposing the removal of trans fats from food, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is targeting another fattening – and potentially harmful – ingredient: acrylamide.

Acrylamide is a chemical that forms in many plant-based foods during high-temperature cooking, such as frying or baking.  It is often found in French fries, cereals, crackers and many other food products.

According to a recent report on the FDA website, stuides have found that high levels of acrylamide can increase the risk of cancer in animals – and many experts believe the risk likely translates to humans as well.

While the chemical has been around for ages, it was first discovered in 2002, and scientists have been investigating it ever since.  According to the FDA, the chemical is formed from sugars and an amino acid that are naturally found in food - and the formation can occur at home, in restaurants or in food that is made commercially.

"Generally speaking, acrylamide is more likely to accumulate when cooking is done for longer periods or at higher temperatures," said Lauren Robin, a chemist for the FDA.

Robin noted that it isn’t practical for people to cut out all acrylamide from their diets, but removing one or two foods high in the substance could be very beneficial to a person’s overall health.

Click for more from the FDA.