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WHO Concerned by Food and Cancer Study
Thu Apr 25, 1:44 PM ET
GENEVA (Reuters) - A top World Health Organisation official said on Thursday that findings by Swedish scientists that carbohydrate-rich foods contain a likely cancer-causing substance were worrying, but more research was needed.
Jorgen Schlundt, head of the WHO's food safety programme, said that it was still too early to evaluate the real risk to people after research found worryingly high levels of acrylamide in such foods as potato crisps and French fries.
"It is alarming enough to go out and tell people that this has been found, but I am not saying that the world should simply stop eating these foods," he told Reuters.
On Wednesday, scientists at Stockholm University published research carried out with the government food safety agency indicating that acrylamide, already known as a probable cancer-causing agent, was formed in very high concentrations when carbohydrate-rich foods such as rice, potatoes or cereals were fried or baked.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (news - web sites) classifies acrylamide, a colourless, crystalline solid, as a "medium hazard probable human carcinogen."
Schlundt said that the WHO, the United Nations (news - web sites)' health arm, planned to gather experts at its Geneva headquarters to examine the question, but it might be a couple of months before such a meeting could be held.
"We are not saying that everybody is going to be dying from this in 30 years, but we are saying that there is a potential problem and that we need to know more," he said.
Schlundt said that one question that needed to be answered was whether the formation of acrylamide was linked to the temperature at which the food was cooked. "We need a lot more knowledge before we can make any recommendations," he said.
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