Can burned toast increase your cancer risk?

Now that the US Food and Drug Administration has banned trans fats, the agency is focusing its sights on getting another dangerous substance out of our food. It’s called acrylamide, a chemical that has been recognized as a potentially cancer-causing substance for quite some time.

Acrylamide can form in some foods—mainly plant-based foods—when they are fried or baked. These foods include potatoes, cereals, coffee, crackers, breads, dried fruits, and many other s, according to the FDA. Acrylamide is estimated to be found in 40 percent of the calories consumed in the average American diet, and high levels have been shown to cause cancer in animals.

Since it’s produced from cooking foods we eat every day, it’s likely impossible to clean it out entirely from the American diet.

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But we could be eating a lot less of it.

Earlier this month, the FDA issued a draft set of recommendations to food manufacturers , which included ways to reduce the level of acrylamide in their products. For example, potato chip makers should avoid using Russet potatoes for frying because they have high levels of “reducing sugars” that convert into acrylamide during frying.

(These are suggestions, though, not requirements.)

How can you reduce the amount you eat? The FDA recommends the following:

• If frying frozen fries, follow manufacturers’ recommendations on time and temperature and avoid overcooking, heavy crisping, or burning. Fry or roast sliced potatoes to a golden yellow color, rather than a brown crispness.

• Toast bread and bagels to a light brown color rather than a dark brown color. The more toasted the bread, the more acrylamide in the food.

• Do not store potatoes in the refrigerator, which can increase acrylamide during cooking. Keep potatoes outside the refrigerator in a dark, cool place, such as a closet or a pantry.