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The Popcorn Wars

Not content with Tuna, Diesel or French Fries, (and many more!!! - I hear you cry) the FDA sets its sights on our humble office staple, Microwaved Popcorn. Resident Doom and Gloom merchant jaycentee eats the evidence up and spits it back at you...

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by Jaycentee, for outsideleft.com
originally published: June, 2006
popcorn bags get very hot

Microwave popcorn may expose you to potentially lethal carcinogens. Preliminary FDA data suggest that eating microwave pop corn may expose people to chemicals that break down to produce Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA), a suspected carcinogen.

FDA reports suggest that your favorite popping treat  could account for more than 20% of the average PFOA levels now found in your blood (if you are a U.S.A. resident). Results of a study by the (FDA) published in October reveal a suspected carcinogen may be served up to millions of unwitting consumers in bags of overcooked microwave popcorn.

The FDA team investigated consumer products that contact food as potential sources, says FDA chemist Timothy Begley, the study's leading author. Some of the papers used for packaging food are treated with grease-repelling fluorotelomer coatings. Microwave popcorn bags have the most of any food wrappers— about 4000 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) in the coating or 25 mg per square decimeter of paper, the authors note.

Microwave popcorn bags probably represent the worst-case scenario for getting PFOA precursors into foods, Begley notes. This is because the amount of fluorotelomers in the coatings is high and because popcorn bags get very hot - they heat up to more than 200 ¬?C in just a minute or two. These temperatures significantly increase the potential for migration of the packaging components to foods, he says."

They say nothing at this time about the post-popped quantities of butter and salt we fortify our prepackaged buttered popcorn with to give that little extra... mmmm, that we like.

The US federal government identifies substances and circumstances that are "known" or are "reasonably anticipated" to cause cancer.

"Among U.S. residents, 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will develop cancer at some point in their lifetimes. Research shows that environmental factors trigger diseases like cancer, especially when someone has a family history," said Kenneth Olden, Ph.D., director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Toxicology Program, which prepared the report for HHS.

The Report on Carcinogens, referred to as the "RoC," lists cancer-causing agents in two categories - - "known to be human carcinogens" and "reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogens." The report now contains 58 "known" and 188 "reasonably anticipated" listings. Federal law requires the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to publish the report every two years.

Some of the above information has been provided without the kind permission of the National Institutes of Health (press release #NIEHS PR #05-01, Jan 31, 2005) (www.nih.gov).

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