Now Toast Is Giving You Cancer

burnt toast_111441884Fresh off the United Nations International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) group instilling a healthy skepticism of both meta-analyses and flawed statistics by claiming that bacon is just as dangerous as cigarettes, the United Kingdom's Food Standards Agency (FSA) says toast could also be killing you - because it has acrylamide, which IARC also calls a carcinogen.

Acrylamide forms from natural sugars and an amino acid in plants when those are cooked at high temperatures. Scientists just discovered its existence recently but obviously modern humans and our ancestors have been cooking food, and therefore consuming acrylamide, for as long as anyone has used fire to cook, around 350,000 years. It may have been listed as a carcinogen due to meta-analyses chosen by an IARC panel, but the studies they chose to include used it in extremely high doses, and in rats. After the IARC finding, lots of groups scrambled to become expert witnesses for the inevitable lawsuits but haven't found evidence for harm in humans.

That didn't stop the Obama administration from issuing a warning about it, a move so strange even NPR can't rationalize a reason why they did it. Now the U.K. has chimed in, after finding that crispy toast had 19 times more acrylamide than pale toast.

That sounds like a lot, but is it? No, it's still trivial. IARC is not much help because they use the terms hazard and risky synonymously but their meta-analyses only look at hazard. Hazard assessment without considering exposure and therefore risk is why the plumes of Mustard Gas that killed thousands of soldiers in World War I are considered just as dangerous as sausage.

What is an acceptable level of acrylamide? No one knows, so the EU is just guessing when they pick a number. No human has ever gotten cancer from burnt toast.

Fortunately for the public, we at the American Council on Science and Health are here to clarify things when UN panels chosen using strange criteria cannot speak common sense. We can tell you "the difference between a health scare and a health threat," as the Wall Street Journal phrased it.

It's safe to eat toast and eat your potatoes extra crispy. Fried potatoes are not even in the top 200 things that killed our ancestors.