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Fries in a Basket
Fast Facts

  • Acrylamide is more likely to accumulate when you cook carbohydrate-rich foods at higher temperatures (frying, baking or broiling) or for longer periods of time. 

  • Boiling, lightly sautéing and steaming foods do not typically form acrylamide.   

  • The EPA has classified acrylamide as a “probable human carcinogen.”

Acrylamide is a cancer-causing chemical that forms in carbohydrate-rich foods that are cooked at high temperatures.  During the process, natural amino acids (especially asparagine) react with naturally occurring sugars in the food to create acrylamide.  

Prepared foods that have particularly high levels of acrylamide include French fries, potato chips, m crackers, cookies, breakfast cereals, coffee, pastries, and bread crusts.

Non-dietary sources of this chemical include cigarette smoke (about 1-2 micrograms per cigarette) and cosmetics. Airborne release of acrylamide occurs during many different industrial processes, including the manufacturing of paper, asphalt, petroleum, construction adhesives, varnishes and dyes.  It is also used in water treatment systems. 


Acrylamide has been shown to cause certain cancers as well as nerve damage in laboratory animals, and is listed as a probable human carcinogen by the EPA.  It is also classified as a Group 2A carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a branch of the World Health Organization (WHO). 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USDA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other organizations around the world are researching and evaluating acrylamide to develop guidelines for manufacturers and recommendations for consumers.

Things you can do:

 Avoid eating French fries and potato chips, which have the highest levels of acrylamide.

•  Limit your intake of baked snack foods containing wheat and sugar, including cookies, crackers and cereals.

•  Discard over-browned or burned toast and bagels (put toaster on “light” setting).

•  Remove dark crusts from bread.

•  Avoid roasted grain-based coffee substitutes.

•  Avoid canned black pitted olives (due to processing using preservation and darkening methods).

•  Avoid roasted cocoa beans.

•  Eat a varied diet, including lots of fruits and vegetables and healthy dairy and poultry products.

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