You may recall an article I posted two years ago about acrylamide, a white, odorless and cancer-causing chemical that has been found in many foods that are truly harmful to your health, including potato chips, French fries, grain-based products and coffee. Acrylamide is also a chemical used in the treatment of sewage and waste and to manufacture certain chemicals, plastics and dyes, in addition to being a byproduct of cooking food at high temperatures.

Although there is considerable debate among the “experts” about the mechanism behind the toxicity of acrylamide — only two to three years after uncovering it — the World Health Organization (WHO) finally got around to issuing a warning about it late last week. In its advisory, the WHO urged governments to put pressure on manufacturers to significantly lower the content of acrylamide in their foods.

The WHO report may have nudged the FDA, prompting them to release new information later this year on acrylamide levels in Americans’ diet. However, the WHO believes such recommendations, depending on factors such as cooking time and temperature and the proper food, are impossible to make.

This comes on the heels of moves by fast-food manufacturers that have finally caught on to the dangers of trans fat content and begun to sell products without it. With the issue of acrylamide beginning to take center stage, I can only hope it will push people to make much better decisions about the foods they eat and safer, healthier ways to prepare them.

For example, consider steamed, poached, slow-cooked or other light cooking methods. I also recommend striving to consume at least one-third of your food raw, as this is the form that will give you the maximum amount of nutrients.

Washington Post March 5, 2005