Britain’s Food Standards Agency is asking the public to “Go for Gold,” but they’re not talking about bringing home a medal. Instead, they are instructing people to only cook their potatoes and toast until it is golden brown out of concern that these starchy foods could be linked to cancer if overdone. It turns out burnt toast might not just be an assault on our nostrils, but an assault on our health as well.
Concern has been rising about the effects of consuming acrylamide, a naturally-occurring compound that is formed when starchy foods are heated up through roasting, toasting, baking or frying. Tests on animals have caused alarm about cancer-causing properties and the possibility that humans could be as susceptible to the dangers of acrylamide as mice.
“Our research indicates that the majority of people are not aware that acrylamide exists, or that they might be able to reduce their personal intake,” said Steve Wearne, Director of Policy at the FSA. “We want our ‘Go for Gold’ campaign to highlight the issue so that consumers know how to make the small changes that may reduce their acrylamide consumption whilst still eating plenty of starchy carbohydrates and vegetables as recommended in government healthy eating advice.”
Many outlets are trying to quell fears by reminding the public that the science is out as to whether or not a cancer link in humans truly exists. The most promising reminder is that further research is needed before anyone completely freaks out over burnt toast. “It’s important to note that the doses of acrylamide used in these animal studies are 1,000 to 100,000 times higher than any amount that people would be exposed to in dietary sources,” Amanda Bontempo, an oncology dietitian at NYU Langone’s Perlmutter Cancer Center told CBS News.
For those who want to practice caution during their brunch, the Go for Gold campaign recommends aiming for a golden brown hue when roasting potatoes or toasting bread, following any package instructions on heating, and storing raw potatoes in a cool, dark place, as opposed to the fridge (apparently, putting potatoes in the fridge can raise acrylamide levels).
Another good rule to follow is making sure your diet includes a variety of colorful foods to balance out the amount of starchy foods you consume. Also, when we cut back on frying or roasting with a bunch of oil to a reasonable level, our health will be on the right track, anyway.
Use common sense when cooking, keep as up to date on the science as you can, and take a deep breath. The world is scary enough as it is—no one needs to be afraid of toast, too.