The substance responsible for this increased risk is a chemical called Acrylamide. This forms when foods are cooked at high temperatures (over 120 degrees C) and is more likely to be formed when frying rather than microwaving or steaming. The substance is naturally found in starchy foods like breakfast cereals, chips, potato products, other root vegetables like parsnips and carrots, biscuits, crackers, crisps and coffee.
The Food Standards Agency say that acrylamide is a ‘probable’ cancer risk and although studies have only shown a link between cancer and acrylamide in animals, they recommend the following tips to reduce risk to humans:
1. When frying, baking, toasting or roasting starchy foods like potatoes, root vegetables and bread aim for a golden yellow colour or lighter rather than a darker crust.
2. Avoid keeping potatoes in the fridge as this can increase levels of acrylamide - instead keep them in a cool dark place.
3. Check for cooking instructions on the pack and follow carefully when frying or oven-cooking packaged food products such as chips, roast potatoes and parsnips. The on-pack instructions are designed to cook the product correctly. This ensures that you aren’t cooking starchy foods for too long or at temperatures which are too high.
4. Eat a varied and balanced diet - we can’t completely avoid risks like acrylamide in food, eating a healthy, balanced diet that includes basing meals on starchy carbohydrates and getting your 5 A Day will help reduce your risk of cancer.
So if you’re a fan of your roasties crispy, there’s no need to cut them out completely - but try limiting yourself to an occasional treat and as part of a healthy balanced diet.