Acrylamide

french friesAcrylamide is a chemical that forms when certain foods that are rich in carbohydrates are cooked or processed at high temperatures. Most acrylamide is formed when asparagine, a natural amino acid, reacts with naturally occurring sugars and begins to brown.

In laboratory studies acrylamide has been shown to cause mammary tumors, thyroid tumors and nerve damage, and is listed as a probable human carcinogen by the EPA. Foods that have been found to have particularly high levels of acrylamide include French fries, potato chips, coffee, breakfast cereals, pastries and bread crusts.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Canadian health authorities, World Health Organization and others are all researching and evaluating acrylamide to aid in considering recommendations for consumers.

Acrylamide is also used in the treatment of drinking water, where its use is regulated by the EPA. For more information on acrylamide in water, see the EPA’s fact sheet.

Web Resources

Frequently Asked Questions − Acrylamide in Food
Information from the World Health Organization

Health Canada reviews epidemiological studies on dietary acrylamide intake and the risk of endometrial, ovarian and/or breast cancer.

Acrylamide in Food - Links to reports from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Public Health Statement - Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry

Read the Executive Summary of the President’s Cancer Panel Report

Learn About Common Chemicals:

Fast Facts
  • Acrylamide forms in baked and fried foods as they cook, especially those that are high in carbohydrates.
  • The EPA has classified acrylamide as a "probable human carcinogen."
  • Acrylamide has been associated with breast and ovarian cancers, and is toxic to the nervous system.
Resources

Read the Executive Summary of the President's CancerPanel Report.pcpcover