Of chips and fries

DID California go overboard in demanding cancer warning on potato chips and french fries? Probably. However, the US state attorney-general’s call demanding warnings on packets of potato chips and french fries, so popular with the Americans after soda drinks, just as done by cigarette manufacturing companies, is not entirely unreasonable.

Health experts have long looked uneasily at those regulation potato chips and dipped-in-oil french fries blaming them for growing obesity-related problems including cardiovascular diseases. But this is the first time that they have been linked to cancer. California’s attorney general Bill Lockyer on Friday sued a handful of restaurant and food companies including McDonald’s accusing them of failing to warn consumers about acrylamide, a chemical the state says causes cancer.

Acrylamide occurs when high heat is applied to certain chemicals in food. California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment found high levels of acrylamide in french fries and potato chips. Hence Lockyer’s argument in favour of health warnings on packs of chips and fries. Lockyer’s lawsuit would require companies to warn consumers about acrylamide. In addition to McDonald’s, the lawsuit names Burger King, PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay division, and Wendy’s International.

Of course, it’s possible Lockyer may have jumped the gun by suing the multinational firms. However, the larger health issue the official has raised deserves serious examination by independent researchers and analysts. Something so sinfully delicious and inviting as potato chips and fries can’t be without their after-effects.

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