Do you want anti-cancer drug in junk food?

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Do you want anti-cancer drug in junk food?

Lesley Ciarula Taylor
Toronto Star, Dec. 22, 2009More on HealthZone

Ottawa is asking Canadians if they think a cancer-fighting enzyme should be
added to junk food.
Putting the enzyme asparaginase in baked and fried food is a "high priority"
for Health Canada, the government said Tuesday in calling for comments.

Canada is following the lead of Singapore, the Netherlands, Australia, New
Zealand, Switzerland, Denmark, Mexico and Russia.

Companies such as McCain's and Frito Lay are urging Ottawa to approve the
food additive and any other substance that cuts down on the levels in
processed food, junk food, bread and cereal of a probable carcinogen.

A joint study by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and the World
Health Organization approved adding the enzyme asparaginase to potato chips,
fries and packaged cookies in 2005.
A Swedish study in 2002 had set off alarms among consumers and the food
industry worldwide when it discovered high levels of what was considered a
carcinogen, acrylamide, formed in some food after high-temperature frying or

Denmark moved first to include it, followed by the U.S. and, in May 2008,
Australia and New Zealand. China gave the additive regulatory approval in

Canada started the long process of changing government regulations to allow
the food additive nearly a year ago, when the government asked the opinions
of food industry groups including the Baking Association of Canada, McCain
Foods and Frito Lay Canada.

Asparaginase got a thumbs-up from all of them, Health Canada said, and they
asked the government to "treat the approval of all tools with the potential
of reducing acrylamide formation in food as a high priority," the government
says on its website.
The enzyme reduces the levels of L-asparagine, a precursor of acrylamide,
which forms in starchy food that is baked or fried at temperatures above 120
bread, crackers, cookies, French fries and potato chips are examples.

Danish tests, cited by Food Standards Australia New Zealand, said the
formation of acrylamide dropped by 36 to 75 per cent in bread and by 86 to
92 per
cent in fritters, doughnuts, Dutch honey cake and crackers.

The European Food and Drink Federation, a food industry lobby, has been
offering asparaginase information pamphlets for several years, with the
latest updates
in February 2009, incorporating U.S. food industry standards.
"Use of asparaginase is effective in biscuits, cereals, crisp bread, and is
today applied to commercial products (e.g. gingerbread, crispbread, short
biscuits, RTE cereals, certain cereal-based snacks) with potential also in
other biscuit and cereal product types," the pamphlets say.

Anti-food additive organizations have argued other means can also neutralize
the damage of the carcinogen.

Kit Granby, a senior scientist at the National Food Institute, Technical
University of Denmark, has reported on studies that found the herb rosemary
also effective in reducing acrylamide content in food by up to 60 per cent.

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About Donna Jodhan

Donna Jodhan is an award winning blind author, advocate, sight loss coach, blogger, podcast commentator, and accessibility specialist.
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