Acrylamide in food has been a serious concern since 2002 when scientists discovered the cancer-causing chemical in many common products. The chemical poses particular threats to young children: given their smaller size and the types of foods they consume, they typically take in twice as much acrylamide, for their size, as adults. We also are concerned about more than cancer. For example, In pregnant women, higher levels of dietary acrylamide have been linked to reduced birth weight and head circumference, key indicators of a child’s future health. California identified acrylamide as a cancer-causing chemical in 1990 and a chemical causing reproductive harm in 2011.

Acrylamide is formed during frying, roasting, broiling, toasting or baking that results in browning of foods, particularly potatoes. In general, foods cooked to darker colors have higher acrylamide levelThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends that the food industry reduce acrylamide levels by using a variety of practices, including choice of potato variety, storage and handling techniques, and cooking temperatures. FDA has also issued recommendations to consumers for reducing their exposure to acrylamide-tainted foods

Legal action by the California Department of Justice in the early 2000s required major manufacturers of potato snack foods and other potato products to reduce acrylamide levels in their products. More recently, CEH tested brands and products that had not been included in the earlier legal action. Much of this litigation has been successfully concluded, including the following companies: Amy’s Kitchen, Dollar Tree, Hain Celestial, Idahoan Foods, Kellogg, Kettle Foods, Lamb Weston, Late July, and Popchips.

Our Independent testing also found high levels of acrylamide in animal crackers and ginger snap cookies. We were particularly concerned about animal crackers because many children eat them. We took legal action to make these products safer and have successfully concluded that action with major companies including Nature’s Path, Pepperidge Farm, Pure’s Foods (maker of Disney themed animal crackers for Walgreens), Stauffer, and Weetabix.