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Caution Urged Against Over-Browned Potatoes and Toast

Toast with Marmite sits on a kitchen counter in Manchester, Britain, Oct. 13, 2016.

A British regulatory agency is urging consumers to avoid burnt or very well toasted bread and deeply browned potatoes. Instead, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) says people should "Go for the Gold" when it comes to starch-containing foods, cooking them to a golden brown, enough to retain the desirable taste and crunch.

The danger, say regulators, is posed when starchy foods are browned to a crisp or possibly even burned. The concern is a chemical called acrylamide, a possible cancer-causing substance, that is produced naturally in food during cooking at high temperatures.

Steve Wearne, the Director of Policy at the FSA, says most people are not aware that acrylamide exists or that it poses a potential health hazard.

The Food Standards Agency undertook a study looking at acrylamide exposure in the British population. The research found that most people are exposed to too much of the chemical, which could increase their overall lifetime cancer risk.

The study found that the main sources of acrylamide are various cereals and food groups that include starchy foods like potatoes.

Studies are underway to better understand how acrylamide forms in some overcooked foods and how consumers may be affected by home cooking practices.