Burned toast or brown French fries are examples of over-cooked foods that could cause cancer due to a possible carcinogen they contain, according to the U.K.’s Food Standards Agency, or FSA.
The FSA has launched a campaign aimed at getting people to “go for gold” when cooking some foods, including potatoes, root vegetables, toast, biscuits and cereals to reduce the amount of a chemical called acrylamide.
Acrylamide is a natural by-product of cooking, and is formed when foods with a high starch content, like potatoes and bread, are fried, grilled, roasted, toasted or baked at high temperatures. The longer a high starch food is cooked and the higher the temperature the more acrylamide is produced.
Studies have shown acrylamide causes cancer in animals and scientists believe it might cause cancer in humans, too.
The FSA said it wants to help reduce the amount of the carcinogen in food as researchers continue studying the effects of acrylamide.
The agency is advising, through its “go for gold” campaign, that starchy foods should be cooked until golden yellow or lighter.
“We want our ‘Go for Gold’ campaign to highlight the issues so that consumers know how to make small changes that may reduce their acrylamide consumption,” FSA director of policy Steve Wearne said in a statement.
The new safety standard comes as the agency released a new study showing people in the U.K. are eating higher levels of acrylamide than “is desirable.”