It has been claimed that Pringles potato chips are loaded with a cancer-causing chemical. Today we look at this claim a little closer to sort out fact from fiction.
It’s true that Pringles – and most potato chips – contain acrylamide, but this chemical’s effect on cancer risk is still being researched and debated.
Pringles have been perhaps unfairly singled out in what is a much larger debate about the acrylamide. This substance is created when high carbohydrate foods are cooked at high temperatures. There is ongoing debate and research regarding an increased risk of cancer from dietary intake of acrylamide. The European Journal of Cancer sums up the debate quite well:
Acrylamide is a probable human carcinogen that causes cancer at multiple sites in animal models. However, whether dietary acrylamide intake increases the risk of colorectal cancer in humans is unclear.
Some studies have shown no link at all between acrylamide and its effect on cancer, while one study showed that coffee was a more significant source of acrylamide than fried potatoes.
Other products found to contain acrylamide include chocolate, prune juice, roasted almonds, and coffee.
The FDA released a table which assessed the acrylamide levels in many common products. Some of the highest levels detected were, in parts per billion:
- Postum Original Caffeine Free Instant Hot Beverage (3747 to 5399)
- Blue Mesa Grill Sweet Potato Chips (4080)
- Route 11 Sweet Potato Chips (2762)
- Pringles Sweet Mesquite BBQ Flavored Potato Crisps (2510)
- Trader Joe’s Veggie Chips Potato Snacks (1970)
- Super G Chopped Ripe Olives (1925)
Though the acrylamide debate is certainly worthy of attention, we wanted to know why the Pringles brand was singled out in this conversation. It appears that two heavily-cited articles (which also ranked highly in Google searches) singled out Pringles, presumably to make a point and not necessarily meant to state that there is something unusual about the brand. See the Mercola and Daily Mail links at the bottom of this article.
We reached out to the Kellogg Company – which has owned Pringles since 2012 – regarding this issue. We received a response from Rebecca Jimenez on July 9, 2013, which read:
Acrylamide levels in Pringles have already been reduced to trace levels in all products sold around the world. However, we’ll continue to partner with experts in the food industry and academia to find ways to reduce acrylamide levels in foods, while maintaining the quality of our products.
Potato chips are among some of the suspected foods that may contain high levels of acrylamide, but Pringles is not the worst offender and should not be singled out in what is an ongoing debate.
- Analysis of acrylamide, a carcinogen formed in heated foodstuffs (PubMed) (Tareke, et al, Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemstry: August 14, 2002)
- Survey Data on Acrylamide in Food: Individual Food Products (FDA: July 2006)
- Cancer chemical found in Pringles, Hula Hoops and Prince Charles’s organic crisps (Sean Poulter, Daily Mail: September 13, 2008)
- Dietary acrylamide intake and risk of colorectal cancer in a prospective cohort of men (European Journal of Cancer: November 20, 2008)
- Acrylamide is in Chocolate! Another Reason Why Cooking Food at High Temperature is Not Good for You (Michael Lustgarten, Yahoo!: October 16, 2011)
- Are You Eating This All-Time Favorite “Cancer-in-a-Can” Snack? (Dr Mercola: November 7, 2011)