Snack Lovers Rejoice: Cancer Chemical Reduction Slated for Chips and Fries

What were the results of this recent lawsuit involving snack product manufacturers and the state of California?

According to news sources, California sued H.J. Heinz Co., Frito-Lay, Kettle Foods Inc., and Lance Inc., on the grounds that these snack-producing conglomerates violated a state agreement requiring them  to post warning labels on products containing carcinogens. The four companies, in order to avoid a costly and lengthy trial, agreed to reduce levels of acrylamide in their potato chips and french fries over the next three years. In addition, the companies also agreed to pay a combined $3 million dollars in fines.

According to Attorney General, Jerry Brown:

“Other companies should follow this lead. This settlement is a victory for public health.”

What are these cancer-causing chemicals that are present in snack products?

Acrylamide is the chief culprit when it comes to carcinogens in snack food products. It forms naturally whenever starchy foods are baked or fried. Studies have indicated that the chemical, which is useful industrially, causes cancer in lab animals and nerve damage to workers who are exposed to high levels. Research is still underway about the full effects of acrylamide as a potential health risk.

Michele Corish, an attorney for Lance, Inc, which produces Cape Cod chips, had this to say:

"Everybody's trying to figure out how to lower levels of acrylamide without significantly, adversely affecting taste. The modified snacks will soon be available nationwide, and Cape Cod’s “Robust Russets” chips are no longer being sold.“

What are some of the specific terms regarding this important snack food-related settlement?

Frito-Lay, which is owned by PepsiCo Inc. and produces most of the chips sold in California, will pay $1.5 million and Kettle Foods will pay $350,000 in penalties. Heinz, which produces frozen fries and tater tots, agreed to pay $600,000. Lance will pay $95,000. In 2005, California also sued McDonald's Corp., Wendy's International Inc., Burger King Corp., KFC, a subsidiary of Yum Brands Inc. and Procter & Gamble Co. over acrylamide levels in 2005. Those lawsuits were settled after the companies agreed to either properly label their products or lower levels of the chemical.

Enjoy those snack food products my friends, but don’t get too distracted. Read the labels before you indulge for only you can prevent carcinogens from doing their terrible thing.

Happy snack time!