Potato Chips are Bad But Not for the Reason You Think and the UK is Creating New Safety Guidelines

Burned potato chips could potentially cause cancer, leading to new regulations in the European Union. Leon Neal/Getty Images

Potato chips are bad, and not because they're high in fat or calories. Instead, it's because burnt chips, and certain other foods, contain a chemical known as acrylamide that could increase one's cancer risk. In turn, the European Union put out a new food safety directive that will force companies to reduce the levels currently found in some items, reports The Telegraph.

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According to our own Food and Drug Administration, the chemical is a result of high temperatures used in processes like roasting and frying. Acrylamide forms naturally and is not a result of packaging or outside elements. The European Food Safety Authority says that it typically occurs at temperatures starting at 248 degrees Fahrenheit that also have low moisture levels.

Manufacturers will begin making chips at reduced temperatures for longer periods of time. Unfortunately, many of your favorite snacks, like crisps, will lose that appealing brown color.

Food Safety Expert Lisa Ackerley of the British Hospitality Association, said this new step has been a long time coming.

"Companies are making good progress on acrylamide already and when you compare the colour crisps from a few years ago to now, you find today's are much lighter," Ackerley told The Telegraph .

According to the paper, companies who don't detail their efforts to reduce the chemical could pay a fine, starting in April 2018.

Studies have shown that acrylamide does increase cancer in animals, however research in humans have not been conclusive.

A representative from Cancer Research UK Emma Shields explained the current research to The Guardian early this year. "Evidence from animal studies has shown that acrylamide can potentially interact with the DNA in our cells so therefore could cause damage and go on to cause cancer, but when we look at studies in humans we can't see a clear and consistent link," she said.

She also noted that there are other steps people can take, aside from avoiding their favorite snacks.

"If people are smoking still, stopping smoking is the biggest thing they can do for their health," she said. Plus, as she points out, avoiding chips isn't the worst thing you can do. "Some of the largest sources of acrylamide are things like crisps and chips and biscuits which are things we shouldn't be eating every day anyway," she said.

Other foods that contain acrylamide include coffee, french fries and burned toast, so avoiding it at all costs may prove difficult.