Overcooked toast may be a cause of cancer, according to new research.
Scientists in the UK believe acrylamide, a chemical created when cooking starchy foods at high temperatures, could elevate the risk of developing cancer.
The chemical is found naturally in many different types of foods, and is present at higher levels when starchy foods are cooked at temperatures above 120C.
Foods including bread, breakfast cereals, biscuits, cakes and even coffee all contain acrylamide, which becomes more abundant the more the food is cooked.
The darker bread is toasted for instance, the higher the concentration of the chemical. This is because amino acids, water and sugars combine to create acrylamide during the cooking process.
Scientists at the UK’s Food Standards Agency issued a warning to consumers to limit their consumption of the chemical.
In animals, acrylamide has been identified to be toxic to DNA and has been linked to cancers.
Government food scientists are unsure of how much acrylamide humans can consume without adverse effects but they assume the chemical carries with it the same levels of risk for humans as it does for other animals.
Scientists say a lifetime of acrylamide exposure can have impacts on our nervous and reproductive systems. The link between acrylamide and human cancers, however, has not been proven.
Nevertheless, UK food scientists say consumers are eating too much of the chemical and have offered suggestions on how to reduce acrylamide exposure.
When cooking bread to make toast, or when frying, baking or roasting, strive for a slightly golden colour rather than a deep brown.
Do not place raw potatoes in the fridge – as this too could increase the food’s acrylamide content over time as potatoes’ sugar content rises in low temperatures.
Follow cooking instructions on food packages and, finally, ensure a healthy balanced diet with the daily recommended five portions of fruits and vegetables.
The European Commission in March 2007 recommended the monitoring of acrylamide levels in food products within the European Union.
It has actively worked to reduce the chemical’s presence for several years.
There is additionally an online petition asking Health and Food Safety Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis to adopt stricter rules on how much acrylamide is acceptable in food.
In October 2016, the commission retreated from issuing legal limits on the chemical after it was revealed food lobbies had influenced proposed legislation.
An EU commission vote on the chemical is expected within the year.