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A New Health Concern for Fast Feeders

BERKELEY, Calif. -- A pending lawsuit against fast-food giants McDonald's and Burger King may have consumers questioning how safe it is to eat one of America's favorite side dishes, reported the Berkeley Daily Planet.

In 2002, Swedish researchers discovered that acrylamide, a chemical produced when carb-rich foods such as French fries or potato chips are heated to high temperatures, can cause cancer or reproductive harm in high doses; scientists in the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Japan have reached the same results. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have deemed acrylamide in food a"major concern."

Because both McDonald's and Burger King cook their French fries at very high temperatures, high levels of acrylamide are present in the popular side order. The Guardian UK reported that the average American consumption of 30 pounds of fries per year and 35 micrograms a day are hundreds of times what the WHO judges to be safe.

While no one is seeking to cut off the French-fry supply, some organizations are trying to make certain that consumers are informed of the risks. The Berkeley Daily Planet reported that the Council for Education and Research on Toxics (CERT) is suing the two fast-food companies under California's Proposition 65, which mandates the use of labels to"help consumers make informed choices" about food and consumer products"known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm."

Ultimately, the issue falls to the FDA, which has been studying acrylamide's effects on both cancer levels and reproductive health since the Swedish studies came out two years ago. At this point, the FDA has limited its warnings to the comment that acrylamide in food represents a"major concern."
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