Mike Leidig
Phone: +43-1-81140-319
Thu, 16.01.2003
pte20030116050 Health/Medicine, Environment/Energy
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Gingerbread threatens health in Germany
Nationwide study: High amount of acrylamide found in examples

Munic (pte050/16.01.2003/18:57) - A nationwide study carried out in Germany on the threat of acrylamide in fried and baked starchy foods has found gingerbread samples contained seven times the levels found in fried potatoes. Acrylamide, believed to be formed by high-temperature cooking, has been linked to cancer, neurological damage and infertility. The new findings come as part of a nationwide study being carried out in Germany by the German Consumer, Nutrition and Agriculture Ministry. It is the widest ranging yet of the presence of acrylamide in food.

Acrylamide first came to light in April, when the Swedish National Food Administration and Stockholm University reported they had found the chemical in fried and oven-baked foods, especially potato chips and French fries. The Swedes said high-temperature cooking caused acrylamide formation, and suggested that the chemical might cause several hundred cases of cancer each year in Sweden alone.

Many initially doubted the findings, but scientists in Norway, the United Kingdom and Switzerland later came up with similar results. Bavarian Health Ministry chemist Gerhard Jungkunz said one of the most surprising results of the German study was that gingerbread contained seven times the amount of acrylamide found on average in fried potatoes. Bavaria is well-known for its gingerbread, which is a particularly big seller in the run up to Christmas.

Commenting on the results, Knut Engelbrecht, spokesman for the Bavarian Health and Food Safety Authority, said: "Tests have been carried out all over Germany since March. Chips, fried potatoes, cakes and now gingerbread have all been found to contain high levels of acrylamide. The levels differ throughout the country for different foods. It depends on the way they were prepared and also how they were stored. "Gingerbread is amongst the worst foods for acrylamide levels but we still do not know why exactly," Engelbrecht added. "We suspect it could be down to the nuts in some gingerbread."

German Consumer Minister Renate Kuenast from the Green Party called on the country's consumers to cut down on high-risk foods. She told German media: "There has long been reason for Germans to eat less greasy fried potatoes and snack foods. Acrylamide is yet another reason to eat less of these foods." Kuenast's spokesman Matthias Berninger said: "Final results will not be out until early next year, but it is already clear that this is a very, very serious problem."

Gingerbread is traditionally consumed by Germans during the Christmas season, but Engelbrecht warns against panic as a result of the latest findings. "People should not eat large quantities of gingerbread. But acrylamide is not the only reason for that. Gingerbread is fattening and high in sugar and cholesterol. Those are good reasons why nobody should over-indulge on gingerbread," Engelbrecht stated. "We are only just beginning to research the effects acrylamide has on humans. We have only so far tested it on mice, where it was found to cause cancer and nerve damage. We also do not yet fully know how it forms. "But what seems most likely is that acrylamide, which is normally used in the manufacture of plastic, is formed as the result of a natural chemical reaction while preparing food at high temperatures," he added.

Submitter: pressetext.austria
Contact: Mike Leidig
Phone: +43-1-81140-319