Acrylamide 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 animal 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.