Cancer, burnt toast and roast potatoes


I should think the entire western world is now afraid to eat their roast potatoes.  This comes after the international media coverage  of the UK Food Standards Agency’s new campaign “"Go for Gold” , [@CABI_Health 23rd Jan ], which hopes to encourage us (UK) to reduce acrylamide in our diet by cooking starchy foods to a pale golden colour and no further.

Speaking as someone who spent nearly 20 years in labs handling acrylamide on a daily basis (for analysing proteins), I can’t say I am too worried about the acrylamide content of my Sunday lunch roast potatoes  and burning my toast.

But what about the general public? Should they be nervous…so what is behind the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) campaign?

It’s their recently published Total diet study of inorganic contaminants, acrylamide & mycotoxins (TDS-2014), covering years 2014 and 2015 for the UK, and how the results fit with European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) recommendations.

A total diet study differs from other food surveys in that foods are firstly prepared and cooked for consumption. The aim of TDS-2014 was to estimate dietary exposure to contaminants for population age groups: it assessed 138 food categories, and for each category pooled food items collected from 24 UK towns.

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Sunnyside up…

Friday 16 July 2010. AS I listened to Radio 4 Woman’s Hour
on the way to work, I found myself increasingly incensed & talking to the

In the studio was a male travel medicine expert, a woman who
loved the suntanned look, and another woman who was determined to be “pale
& interesting”.

The travel medicine expert
remarked that in the conference
he’d attended the previous week, filled with  reports on vaccinations & exotic diseases linked to travel, there was but “one paper on
the sun”, by which he meant the detrimental effects of it on your health.
This reminded me of an interesting and equally “only one” poster at the UKPHA
meeting 2010 in Bournemouth which intrigued me
because I’d not thought such research was necessary. Elizabeth Norton, a nurse
researcher of Bournemouth University was conducting a study on why young women
were sunbathing on the Bournemouth beach
without sunscreen or other precautions such as reducing the time they spent in
the sun. It was a case of knowing the dangers but just not bothering; comfort
& looking good mattered more.

Our in studio Radio 4 expert claimed that people of his ilk,
were becoming exhausted at warning of the dangers of the sun, without
apparently changing anyone’s behaviour and having any impact on the rising
incidence of skin cancer (2000 people per yr in the UK die from this disease).(I
would have wanted a breakdown on the age groups…are these people who would
have begun package holidaying in the sun since the 1970’s,  how many were veterans of the second-world war
who were unable to take precautions & after 60 tend to get skin cancer? Linked
to the nurse’s study, is it more girls than men? I provide references below
which have some of this information).

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