This is the VOA Special English Health Report.
Twenty-three international health experts say they are concerned about the possible health effects of a harmful chemical found in some popular foods.
The experts made the announcement at the end of a recent meeting of the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. The W-H-O and the Food and Agriculture Organization called the meeting to examine the results of earlier studies of the chemical, acrylamide (a-KRILL-a-mide). Acrylamide causes cancer in laboratory animals. There is no proof that it causes cancer in humans. However, it is known to damage the human nervous system.
In April, Swedish scientists found high levels of acrylamide in several kinds of carbohydrate foods that are fried or baked at high temperatures. They include French fried potatoes, potato chips, crackers, breakfast cereals and bread. Millions of people around the world eat these foods.
Sweden’s National Food Administration tested more than one-hundred different kinds of carbohydrate foods. It found that a bag of potato chips contained five-hundred times more acrylamide than is considered safe by the W-H-O. Researchers also tested French fried potatoes from an American fast-food eating place. They found one-hundred times the safe limit of acrylamide. They also found high levels of the chemical in some cereals. Similar results were found in later studies done in Norway, Britain, Switzerland, Germany and the United States.
These results led the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization to call the meeting in Geneva. The experts at the meeting called the situation a serious problem. They urged the food industry to reduce levels of acrylamide in their products. But they said more study is needed to find out the risk from foods containing acrylamide. They want to create a group that will examine the results of all the studies from governments, universities and industries around the world.
The scientists said they did not have enough information to warn people not to eat foods containing acrylamide. But they said people should eat a balanced diet with more fruits and vegetables and limited amounts of fatty and fried foods.
This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Nancy Steinbach.