Government food scientists have warned that starchy food – such as bread and potatoes – should be cooked a golden yellow, rather than brown, to reduce the intake of a potentially harmful chemical which could cause cancer. The chemical acrylamide is produced when starchy foods are toasted, fried, roasted or grilled too long at high temperatures, and previous research has found it is toxic to the DNA of animals. Although a Cancer Research spokeswoman has said that the link in humans has not yet been proven, the Food Standards Agency recommends following careful cooking instructions and avoiding browning.
The FSA also warns against keeping potatoes in the fridge, as sugar levels in the vegetable rise at cold temperatures, which could increase the production of acrylamide during cooking. The natural chemical substance – formed by a reaction between amino acids and sugars – is found in starchy foods that have been cooked at 120ºC, such as bread, crisps, breakfast cereals, cakes, biscuits and coffee.
The FSA is unaware how much of acrylamide can be harmful to humans, but has advised that high-starch food be cooked to a golden yellow – the darker the food, the more acrylamide is present – and store raw potatoes in a cool, dark place above 6ºC. They also recommend eating a varied and balanced diet, and that getting your five a day will help reduce your risk of cancer.