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Health Canada To Add Anti-
Cancer Drugs To Junk Food

Health Canada is asking Canadians if they think a cancer-fighting enzyme should be added to junk food.

Putting the enzyme asparaginase in baked and fried food is a "high priority" for Health Canada, the government said Tuesday in calling for comments.

Canada is following the lead of Singapore, the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Denmark, Mexico and Russia.

Companies such as McCain's and Frito Lay are urging Ottawa to approve the food additive and any other substance that cuts down on the levels in processed food, junk food, bread and cereal of a probable carcinogen.

A joint study by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization approved adding the enzyme asparaginase to potato chips, French fries and packaged cookies in 2005.

A Swedish study in 2002 had set off alarms among consumers and the food industry worldwide when it discovered high levels of what was considered a probable carcinogen, acrylamide, formed in some food after high-temperature frying or baking.

Denmark moved first to include it, followed by the U.S. and, in May 2008, Australia and New Zealand. China gave the additive regulatory approval in October.

Canada started the long process of changing government regulations to allow the food additive nearly a year ago, when the government asked the opinions of food industry groups including the Baking Association of Canada, McCain Foods and Frito Lay Canada.

Asparaginase got a thumbs-up from all of them, Health Canada said, and they asked the government to "treat the approval of all tools with the potential of reducing acrylamide formation in food as a high priority," the government says on its website.

The enzyme reduces the levels of L-asparagine, a precursor of acrylamide, which forms in starchy food that is baked or fried at temperatures above 120 C: bread, crackers, cookies, French fries and potato chips are examples.

Danish tests, cited by Food Standards Australia New Zealand, said the formation of acrylamide dropped by 36 to 75 percent in bread and by 86 to 92 percent in fritters, doughnuts, Dutch honey cake and crackers.

The European Food and Drink Federation, a food industry lobby, has been offering asparaginase information pamphlets for several years, with the latest updates in February 2009, incorporating U.S. food industry standards.

"Use of asparaginase is effective in biscuits, cereals, crisp bread, and is today applied to commercial products (e.g. gingerbread, crispbread, short sweet biscuits, RTE cereals, certain cereal-based snacks) with potential also in other biscuit and cereal product types," the pamphlets say.

Anti-food additive organizations have argued other means can also neutralize the damage of the carcinogen.

Kit Granby, a senior scientist at the National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark, has reported on studies that found the herb rosemary is also effective in reducing acrylamide content in food by up to 60 percent.

Reference Sources:
December 23, 2009

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