Cancer in a Can: The Shocking True Story of How Pringles Are Made
Most of you reading this article probably enjoy potato chips once in a while. But, it is more than clear that this product is one of the most dangerous and toxic foods on the market — regardless of the fact whether it is made from potatoes or not.
Potato chips are loaded with cancer-causing chemicals
Things will start changing at the very moment you face the undeniable fact that Pringles and other stackable chips are not made from potatoes in any recognizable way.
In an effort to avoid paying taxes imposed upon chips and other “luxury foods” in the UK, the Pringles Company once explained that the potato content of their product is so low, that practically they are not even potato chips.
So, what are we actually buying?
The initial phase of the production starts with a slurry of rice, wheat, corn and potato flakes pressed into shape. It is a dough-like materia that is later rolled into an ultra-thin sheet. A machine cuts it into chip-cookies.
According to io9:
“The chips move forward on a conveyor belt until they’re pressed onto molds, which give them the curve that makes them fit into one another.
Those molds move through boiling oil … Then they’re blown dry, sprayed with powdered flavors, and at last, flipped onto a slower-moving conveyor belt in a way that allows them to stack. From then on, it’s into the cans … and off towards the innocent mouths of the consumers.”
However, one of the most dangerous ingredients found in potato chips is not added during the production process. It is actually a by-product of the processing.
The media is loaded with information about this hazardous chemical, so you can probably guess what it is all about.
Acrylamide is a cancer-causing chemical, and some researchers consider it as a potentially neurotoxic substance. It is created when carbohydrate-based foods are baked, fried, roasted or toasted on high temperatures.
French fries and potato chips are the most dangerous processed foods, but it is terrifying to know that many food products cooked at temperatures above 212°F (100°C) contain this toxic chemical. To be more precise, acrylamide is produced when the foods get a fairly dry and golden-brown surface during the heating process.
Acrylamide may be found in:
- Potatoes: chips, French fries and other fried potato products
- Grains: bread crust, toast, crisp bread, roasted breakfast cereals and other processed snacks
- Coffee: roasted coffee beans and ground coffee powder. This may come as a surprise to you, but chicory-based coffee substitutes contain 2-3 times more acrylamide than regular coffee.
How much acrylamide are you consuming?
The highest limit for acrylamide in drinking water is 0.5 parts per billion, or 0.12 micrograms in an eight-ounce glass of water. A six-ounce portion of fries contains up to 60mg of acrylamide, and that is 500 times more than the allowed limit!
The same goes for potato chips as well. The amount of acrylamide in potato chips is so high, that in 2005 California sued the companies for not warning the Californian consumers about the potential health risks od acrylamide contained in their products.
In 2008 they reached a settlement, and at that time Frito-Lay and other companies agreed to reduce the amount of acrylamide in their potato chips to 275 parts per billion (ppb). That is low enough, so there was no need for a label that warns about the possible risk of cancer.
The California-based Environmental Law Foundation (ELF) issued a report “How Potato Chips Stack Up: Levels of Cancer-Causing Acrylamide in Popular Brands of Potato Chips” explaining the dangers brought by the consumption of this food.
Their analysis showed that these products exceed the allowed amount of acrylamide by a minimum of 39 times and a maximum of 910 times! Here are some of the worst foods that the market offered in that period:
- Cape Cod Robust Russet: 910 times the legal limit of acrylamide
- Kettle Chips (lightly salted): 505 times
- Kettle Chips (honey dijon): 495 times
Baked chips may be worse than fried chips
Maybe you should think twice before reaching for baked chips. They are sure not healthier that regular fried chips, and you will certainly not avoid any health risks by choosing baked products. As we already said, acrylamide is created when the food is processed on high temperatures, including baking as well. According to FDA, baked chips contain more than three times more acrylamide than regular chips!
The same goes for other processed foods as well, meaning that baking processed potatoes at high temperatures is one of the worst ways to cook potatoes.
FDA says that fried Ore Ida Golden Fries contain 107 ppb of acrylamide, and the baked version contains 1,098! What is our point? You should remember that every type of potato chips contains acrylamide, including both fried and baked versions. Taking this into consideration, you are probably aware of the fact that potato chips negatively affects your insulin levels.
Acrylamide is not the only danger
We have some more bad news for you. Acrylamide is not the only genotoxic compound you should be worried about. High temperatures stimulate the creation of many other toxic materia.
Heat-Generated Food Toxicants (HEATOX) is a three-year long project by the EU, and its results were published at the end of 2007. Their findings showed that there are about 800 toxic compounds, and 52 are potential carcinogens.
They confirmed that acrylamide is dangerous to your health, and also that you will not ingest that much of the chemical by eating homemade foods, when compared to industrial or restaurant-prepared meals.
HEATOX also showed that you cannot eliminate acrylamide completely, but there are some ways to decrease the exposure to this chemical.
According to the findings, even if you apply every method to reduce the acrylamide level, a decrease of 40% is the best result you can obtain. Does this make you wonder if the companies have really succeeded to reduce the amount of acrylamide within the allowed limit? However, there is still no data available that the manifacturers complied with the 2005 settlement.
Read the online report Heat-generated Food Toxicants, Identification, Characterization and Risk Minimization for more detailed information about acrylamide. But, keep in mind that cooking at high temperatures is ill advised.
These are some of the most common heat-induced substances:
Heterocyclic Amines (HCAs)
These toxins are associated with cancer, and they form when different kinds of meat are cooked at high temperatures. They are concentrated in the burned section of the meat, so try to avoid over-cooking your meat and do not eat any burned ends.
Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)
The fat that drips on the heat source causes excess smoke. This smoke surrounds the food, transferring cancerogenic PAHs to the meat.
Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs): Cooking at high temperatures, including pasteurization and sterilization, increases the amount of AGEs in the food. When you eat these foods, the toxic AGEs enter your body. The buildups of AGEs in the body lead to oxidative stress, inflammation and an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and kidney disease.
The search for “healthy” chips continues
Similar to the modern search for the Holy Grail, the companies still search for methods that will improve the quality of their health-threatening, but highly profitable products. By the end of 2011, half of Pepsi’s Frito-Lay snacks were supposed to be reformulated with natural additives.
This was part of PepsiCo’s master plan to be part of the healthy food market. The Wall Street Journal’s report showed that the company hoped to boost the nutrition business from $10 billion to $30 billion by 2020.
PepsiCo shall remove any hazardous materia, such as monosodium glutamate (MSG). This and other similar hazards will be replaced with natural seasonings, including molasses and paprika. The company will replace artificial colors with beet juice, purple cabbage and carrots. About 60 snacks will go through a natural makeover.
This should be a good example for every company. This is the perfect way in which consumers can alter the food production in a more positive way.
These reformulated versions may eventually be considered as less dangerous to your health, when compared to the original products. The truth is, chips will never be completely healthy.
All-natural chips are the lesser of two evils, but keep in mind, regular consumption of this product can sure affect your health. It is a fact that modern diseases such as cancer, heart disease, obesity and diabetes contain dietary component, and processed potato foods are not the best choice if you do not want to be another disease statistics.
How to avoid heat-induced toxins
The more raw your food is, the healthier you will be. Consume raw or minimally processed foods to reduce the intake of toxic by-products. At least one-third of your diet should consist of raw foods. It is even better if 80% of the food you eat is raw, as it is one of the most powerful factors that will keep you healthy.
It is hard to change your dietary habits, but avoiding the worst offenders is a perfect start.
Reduce the consumption of French fries, potato chips, doughnuts, and every kind of soda, including both regular and diet, because artificial sweeteners have proven to be more dangerous than fructose.
Healthy eating made easy
It is not only the toxic by-products you should be worried about. Over-cooking your food will reduce its nutritional value, and this should be enough to convince you to eat your food raw. Almost raw whole eggs from organic and pastured chickens are high in nutrients. The same goes for raw milk. Milk is healthier when it is raw, because during the pasteurization it becomes harmful.
Raw, organic and locally grown vegetables, organic grass-fed meats, healthy oils, raw dairy, nuts and seeds will sure benefit your health. These foods are completely natural and easy to prepare.
Follow an optimized nutrition plan to switch to a healthier diet regimen easily.
Keep in mind, fresh foods are the secret of good health and attractive looks. But, many people still think that it is almost impossible to prepare a meal without using processed foods.
Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough have discussed this issue in their book Real Food Has Curves. This book is the perfect starting point to learn how to enjoy real food.
Once you get used to living a healthier life, you will learn how to prepare a meal from scratch for the same time needed to drive to the nearest fast-food restaurant. This will give you a greater physical and mental satisfaction, and probably even financial, because processed foods are often more expensive than home-cooked meals.