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STOCKHOLM - Sweden's National Food Administration today reported scientists' findings that some carbohydrate-rich foods such as bread, biscuits, potato chips and french fries contain alarmingly high quantities of a substance believed to cause cancer, Reuters reports.
The research carried out at Stockholm University in cooperation with experts at Sweden's National Food Administration, a government food safety agency, showed that the heating of such foods formed acrylamide, a much studied substance classified as a probable human carcinogen.
Two of Sweden's national newspapers featured the story Tuesday ahead of the food agency's news conference.
"I have been in this field for 30 years and I have never seen anything like this before," said Leif Busk, head of the food administration's research department. "The discovery that acrylamide is formed during the preparation of food, and at high levels, is new knowledge. It may now be possible to explain some of the cases of cancer caused by food," he added.
Findings showed that an ordinary bag of potato chips may contain up to 500 times more of the substance than the top level allowed in drinking water by the World Health Organization.
French fries sold at Swedish franchises of U.S. fast-food chains Burger King Corp and McDonald's contained about 100 times the one microgram per liter maximum permitted by the WHO for drinking water, the study showed.
Busk said the product analysis based on more than 100 random samples was not extensive enough for the administration to recommend the withdrawal of any products from supermarket shelves. He said the findings applied worldwide, not only to Sweden, as the food raw materials used in the analyses had showed no traces of acrylamide.
Among products analyzed in the study were potato chips made by Finnish company CHIPS ABP, whose shares fell 14.5 percent to six-month lows, as well as breakfast cereals made by U.S. Kellogg, Quaker Oats Co, part of PepsiCo Inc, and Swiss Nestle, and Old El Paso brand tortilla chips.
"It is the first time we have come across such a result. We will evaluate this study and look at it, but it is important to say that Sweden has not withdrawn any products from the market," said European Commission spokeswoman Beate Gminder.
"Therefore we'll have to see what the scientific evaluation by our side and by scientists in the member states will bring about," she said.