Potato chips, which now come baked or fried and in countless flavors, styles, and shapes, are one of the most popular snack foods ever invented. They also contain varying amounts of acrylamide, which has been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals and is listed as a chemical known to cause cancer by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.

California law requires a consumer warning on any product that contains carcinogens. The Environmental Law Foundation (ELF) claims that acrylamide already meets that criteria and therefore must be included in a warning label.

The FDA has taken the position that, while high doses of the chemical have caused cancer in lab animals, it is “not clear whether acrylamide causes cancer in humans at the much lower levels found in food.”  ELF claims that the extremely high levels of acrylamide present in many of the products far exceed the amount for which a warning is required.

Nonetheless, ELF has filed notices that give the California Attorney General 60 days to take up the case on behalf of California residents. If the Attorney General declines to do so, ELF “intends to bring suit in the public interest” against a number of companies including PepsiCo Inc. (Lays), Proctor & Gamble (Pringles), Lance Inc. (Cape Cod), and Kettle Foods Inc. (Kettle Chips).

Acrylamide is formed when starchy foods are baked or fried at high temperatures.  

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