An emergency session of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva has concluded that fried foods may cause cancer.This content was published on June 28, 2002 - 14:47
The findings - announced on Thursday at the end of the three-day session - are backed up by similar tests carried out in several countries including Switzerland.
A recent study carried out by canton Zurich's food control authority showed that some starch-based foods cooked at high temperatures contained a carcinogenic substance called acrylamide.
The team of 23 specialists brought together by the WHO confirmed that high levels of acrylamide had been found in foods such as potato chips, crisps and some types of bread.
But scientists said more research was needed before a final verdict about the danger of acrylamide could be reached.
"Acrymalide is of high concern because it can cause cancer in animals and probably causes it in human beings," said Jorgen Schlundt, coordinator of the WHO's food safety division.
"This is not just another food scare. If what we know from water and animal experiments is true, it could be a very significant source of cancer in humans," he added.
More research needed
After three days of closed-door talks, experts said they needed to know more about how it was formed, and at what temperatures, as well as the types of foods involved - research which could take from weeks to a couple of years.
In a recently completed Swedish study, scientists estimated that the substance could be responsible for several hundred of the 45,000 cancer cases in Sweden each year.
However, a number of scientists have also expressed misgivings about the Swedish study, which was based on 100 different foods.
Mary Sophos, spokeswoman for the Grocery Manufacturers of America, said people should not change their diets because of the study.
"We don't yet have enough information to make any informed statements about acrylamide. We must allow the experts to do their work," Sophos said.
swissinfo with agencies
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