NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 18, 2005

California Attorney General Bill Lockyer wants warning labels on all French fries and potato chips sold in California, saying they contain a substance "known" to cause cancer in rodents. In August, he filed suit against McDonalds, Frito-Lay and seven other food companies.

Under California's Proposition 65, the state is required to regulate chemicals "known" to cause cancer or reproductive harm and to force manufacturers to label their products or warn consumers. Investor's Business Daily says the state "knows" no such thing. The substance in question is acrylamide:

  • Acrylamide is not added to food, but forms naturally in minute quantities when food is processed or cooked at high temperatures; it also forms in uncooked foods and at room temperature during storage.
  • Acrylamide labeling as a probable human carcinogen is based on studies in which rats were fed a daily dose of 500 micrograms per kilogram of body weight over their lifespan.
  • In human terms, the average adult would have to consume 195 pounds of French fries, 142 pounds of graham crackers or 333 pounds of Cheerios every day for their entire life to approach the lowest level of risk observed in laboratory rats.
  • Harvard University researchers found no association between acrylamide consumed in food and risk of breast cancer; other studies have shown similar results.

One study found acrylamide in 40 percent of the food we eat. Some of the highest concentrations are found in black olives, smoked almonds, coffee, onion soup, whole-grain cereals and breads, sweet potatoes, peanut butter, mixed vegetables, chili and prune juice.

Apparently, there is no fame or fortune in suing purveyors of broccoli or alfalfa sprouts since Lockyer is only suing the makers of fries and chips, the quintessential junk food certain to grab headlines, says IBD.

Source: Editorial, "California's Low-Fact Diet," Investor's Business Daily, October 13, 2005.


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