Cancer in a Can:
The Shocking True Story of how Pringles are Made
A three-year long EU project, known as Heat-Generated Food Toxicants (HEATOX), whose findings were published at the end of 2007, found there are more than 800 heat-induced compounds, of which 52 are potential carcinogens.
Pringles potato chips contain a cancer-causing chemical.
Hoax or Fact:
Fact with some misinformation.
Health warnings against consumption of Pringles potato chips talk about a European Union project which seems to have found that they contain potential carcinogens. Yes, it is a fact, but the carcinogenic potential in humans is still under study, and Pringles is not the only chips and food product to form these carcinogens. Also, the HEATOX study report is misinterpreted here.
In 2002, it was accidentally discovered that many processed foods, including chips and crisps (like Pringles) contained high levels of a potentially carcinogenic molecule called Acrylamide. The International Agency for Research on Cancer had classified Acrylamide as ‘probably carcinogenic in humans’. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization quickly set up an international network of researchers to study the formation and effect of acrylamide in food. The WHO website states:
Acrylamide (C3H3ONH2) is a chemical that is produced naturally in certain foods when they are cooked at high temperatures. It is also manufactured industrially for use in the production of polyacrylamide gels, which are used for various purposes, including the treatment of drinking-water and wastewater. Acrylamide is known to cause cancer in animals and, in high doses, can cause nerve damage in humans.
The European Union contributed to this investigation with the formation of the HEATOX (Heat-Generated Food Toxicants, Identification, Characterization and Risk Minimization) Project. They came to a conclusion that when certain food products are heated past a temperature over time (above 120 degrees Celsius, i.e. 248 degrees Fahrenheit), it results in the formation of toxins including carcinogens. The study also concluded saying:
Acrylamide is not the only genotoxic compound formed when heating food. Furan, HMF and other compounds have been investigated. A database of more than 800 heat-induced compounds, of which around 50 have been highlighted as potential carcinogens based on their chemical structure, has been compiled to aid future research.
This health concern of overheating foods in general is wrongly attributed to only Pringles in the above claim.
Acrylamide is a potential carcinogen also found in cigarettes, coffee, potato & bread products, baked/fried food. So it should be noted that Pringles chips is not the only health risk here. It should also be noted that contribution of Acrylamide from home cooking is relatively small, and it depends on cooking practices.
It is also a fact that excess consumption of these chips, crisps, French fries or similar snacks can damage your health in long term. Read this article which said a bag of chips a day is equivalent to 5L of vegetable oil a year. Therefore, it is better to avoid this health risk by following a low-fat diet and reduce intake of such chips, as Acrylamide is mainly found in carbohydrate-rich foods - that are industrial made. It is also advised to avoid overcooking foods, because most acrylamide formation happens during the last few minutes of cooking. This is to say, it is healthy to make golden yellow colored bread toasts or potato chips, instead of making them golden brown.