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Cancer chemical in French fries and coffee?
By Jiang Zhuqing (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-04-15 06:15

Liu Yan, an office manager who used to love French fries and drinking instant coffee, has made up her mind not to go near them again.

The Ministry of Health declared on Wednesday that excessive intake of fried food or food containing saturated fat increases the risk of health problems and some types of cancer.

The announcement has stirred debate amongst consumers.

"After reading these reports I have decided to stop eating French fries," Liu said. "I'm pregnant and I want to be healthy for the sake of my baby."

However, more than half of people interviewed said they did not care much about the reports and would continue to eat fried chips and deep fried dough sticks, reported the China News Service.

Academic research has shown that, just like smoking, prolonged intake of fried or barbecued food, can be harmful to health, and according to Meng Xianzhu, an expert with the China Cancer Research Foundation, it is even more dangerous than the infamous Sudan I.

The health ministry said snacks, such as French fries and some traditional Chinese snacks, contain high levels of acrylamide, a chemical which has the potential to cause cancer.

Data from the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention showed that fried food and roasted grain products contain the highest levels of acrylamide, which is also found in instant coffee, barley tea and maize tea.

Public relations representatives for fast food giant McDonald's moved swiftly to reassure the public. "McDonald's will continue to take responsible measures concerning food safety and will follow the recommendations of related departments," said Wang Jianhui, a public relation assistant manager with McDonald's (China).

"In the meantime, people should not draw a hurried conclusion... as foods such as bread, coffee and fried chips are major items they eat everyday," she said.

Meanwhile, in a statement in Beijing yesterday, Nestle said results on the health risks from eating food containing acrylamide were so far inconclusive, insisting that there is no need for consumers to change their eating habits.

Nutrition experts said the occasional intake of fried food produces little damage to health but warned that an excessive intake of saturated fat in the long term will increase the risk of chronic health problems such as heart disease.

(China Daily 04/15/2005 page2)

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