Naturally Rockford: Warning labels sought for potato chips

A warning on potato chip packages? There’s a consumer group in California that is demanding just that. The legal group contends that those tasty chips contain a cancer-causing chemical and that California law requires such a warning.

The Environmental Law Foundation has filed notices with California’s attorney general against Lay’s potato chips and its parent company, PepsiCo Inc.; Pringles maker Proctor & Gamble Co., Cape Cod potato chip owners, Lance Inc., and Kettle Chips maker Kettle Foods Inc.

Reuters reported the notices give the attorney general 60 days to take up the case. If that office declines, the environmental group said it will sue “in the public interest” against the chip -aking companies.

California law states that companies are required to warn consumers if their products have any known carcinogens. The chemical in question with potato chips is acrylamide. It is formed when starchy foods are cooked at high temperatures. Acrylamide is a known cancer-causing agent.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been studying the effect of acrylamide levels in food since 2002, but has taken no action. The FDA said that while the chemical is known to cause cancer in laboratory animals in high doses, “it is not clear whether acrylamide causes cancer in humans at the much lower levels found in food.”

An FDA spokesman said the agency still is trying to determine the effects of the chemical in food.

Reuters said Frito-Lay, a subsidiary unit of PepsiCo, stated that its “food safety standards are very stringent and meet all federal and state regulations.” A spokesman for Pringles said its products “are as safe as ever” and that the company is working to “reduce the formation of acrylamide.” Kettle Foods declined to comment, and officials at Lance could not be contacted.

The Oakland-based environmental group said tests it had performed found acrylamide levels in many of the most popular potato chip brands far exceeded the levels requiring warning labels under California law.

It reported Cape Cod Robust Russet chips were 910 times the mandatory warning level, and Kettle Chips Lightly Salted chips topped the level by 505 times.

From the June 29-July 5, 2005, issue

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