Potato chips tainted with carcinogen in Ho Chi Minh City

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A study has found that samples of potato chips sold at food stores in Ho Chi Minh City have a carcinogen produced during excessive heating process, Kienthuc news website reported Thursday.

According to the finding by a group of scientists from the HCMC Institute of Hygiene and Public and the HCMC University of Technology, 12 samples collected at local fast food and food retail stores were contaminated with between 334µg/kg and 2,957µg/kg of acrylamide.

They also took fresh potatoes to fry them at different temperatures and time durations, and found that the longer and the hotter the potatoes were cooked, the more the carcinogen was produced, the news report said.

According to an article on the World Health Organization's website, despite the absence of evidence that the chemical can cause cancer to humans through ingestion, its International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified acrylamide as "probably carcinogenic to humans."

Moreover, the known carcinogen to animals is toxic to the nervous system of humans and animals with certain doses, it added.

The United Nations' health agency also said that although there is little information about how acrylamide forms in foods, the highest levels of the chemical found so far are in starchy foods potatoes and cereal products.

To prevent from being exposed to the toxin, foods should not be cooked excessively - for too long or at too high temperatures - the WHO says, adding that acrylamide has so far not been found in foods prepared at temperatures below 120 degrees Celsius, including boiled foods.

According to Kienthuc, its quick survey at a residential area and several schools in Ho Chi Minh City showed that 95 percent of questioned children said they love potato chips.

The rates were 70 percent among young adults and 50 percent among the elderly, it said.

Up to 65 percent of the surveyed people said they eat potato chips without knowing about their possible health risks.

Meanwhile, 20 percent of surveyed parents said they care about fats in potato chips, but they do not feel worried when their children have them at famous fast food chains.

The news website's reporters also surveyed people at fast food stores along Ta Hien Street in Hanoi, where hundreds of young people gather every day.

The owner of one of the stores was quoted as saying that she usually fries potatoes that are already seasoned in her "secret" seasonings, and fries them again when customers make orders to make them crisp and yellow quickly.

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