As a general rule, the chemical is formed when food is heated enough to produce a fairly dry and brown/yellow surface. Hence, it can be found in:
- Potatoes: chips, French fries and other roasted or fried potato foods
- Grains: bread crust, toast, crisp bread, roasted breakfast cereals and various processed snacks
- Coffee; roasted coffee beans and ground coffee powder. Surprisingly, coffee substitutes based on chicory actually contain 2-3 times more acrylamide than real coffee
How Much Acrylamide Are You Consuming?
The federal limit for acrylamide in drinking water is 0.5 parts per billion, or about 0.12 micrograms in an eight-ounce glass of water. However, a six-ounce serving of French fries can contain 60 micrograms of acrylamide, or about five hundred times over the allowable limit.
Similarly, potato chips are notoriously high in this dangerous chemical. So high, in fact, that in 2005 the state of California actually sued potato chip makers for failing to warn California consumers about the health risks of acrylamide in their products. A settlement was reached in 2008 when Frito-Lay and several other potato chip makers agreed to reduce the acrylamide levels in their chips to 275 parts per billion (ppb) by 2011, which is low enough to avoid needing a cancer warning label.
The 2005 report “How Potato Chips Stack Up: Levels of Cancer-Causing Acrylamide in Popular Brands of Potato Chips,” issued by the California-based Environmental Law Foundation (ELF), spelled out the dangers of this popular snack. Their analysis found that all potato chip products tested exceeded the legal limit of acrylamide by a minimum of 39 times, and as much as 910 times! Some of the worst offenders at that time included:
- Cape Cod Robust Russet: 910 times the legal limit of acrylamide
- Kettle Chips (lightly salted): 505 times
- Kettle Chips (honey dijon): 495 times