Anti-Cancer Drug Added to Junk Foods

Health Canada announced today that they are contemplating allowing food companies to add an anti-cancer drug to junk foods. This cancer-fighting drug called asparaginase is an enzyme that is used in patients with leukemia and some other types of cancers. Asparaginase also helps to reduce levels of a food processing byproduct called acrylamide, which may have cancer-causing properties.

There is public concern regarding the addition of an anti-cancer drug called asparaginase to junk foods, such as potato chips.

There is public concern regarding the addition of an anti-cancer drug called asparaginase to junk foods, such as potato chips.

When I first read this news about an anti-cancer drug being added to junk foods I shook my head and thought “Taking drugs should be my choice, not that of the government’s”. After a few moments, however, I have come to my senses. Why would I be opposed to a drug being added to junk foods if it might lower cancer rates. After all, if you think about how many unhealthy chemicals are already contained in these types of foods, one that may help fight cancer surely shouldn’t be a problem.

The proposal to add asparaginase to junk foods and baked goods is not a new one. In August 2007, DSM Food Specialties trademarked asparaginase under the brand name PreventASe™ and signed over application rights to Frito-Lay and Proctor & Gamble. These two companies make common brand named junk foods, including Doritos, Cheetos, Lays Potato Chips and Pringles. Asparaginase is not currently added to these products, at least not according to the nutritional information these manufacturers provide, but now it could be only a matter of time.

So why does the Canadian government want to encourage the food industry to add asparaginase to certain foods? As it turns out, during the processing of starchy foods at high temperatures a potentially cancer-causing chemical called acrylamide is produced. However, the addition of asparaginase to these foods before they are processed helps to reduce the amount of acrylamide that is formed.

The big question is whether asparaginase is safe to consume and this is at the root of consumer concern. After all, we don’t want to replace one evil with another as we so often do. Health Canada claims that its group of scientists have completed a thorough safety assessment of asparaginase and have found no safety or health concerns. Health Canada also backs up this claim with the fact that asparaginase is already used in the U.S., New Zealand, Australia and Denmark. However, the word “used” is very ambiguous and it is not clear whether asparaginase is being used as a food additive in these countries or as something else. After much looking, I was unable to find any U.S. food products that claim to contain asparaginase.

I feel I wouldn’t be doing my part here if I didn’t mention that the whole group of foods in question are junk foods and baked goods. The consumption of these types of foods is associated with all sorts of health problems, such as obesity, high cholesterol, insulin resistance, and diabetes, not just cancer. As an advocate of eating a healthy diet that does not include junk foods, I feel a bit dismayed that the Canadian government is attempting to make these foods “safer” to eat. I can only hope that along with all the money they spend on trying to make these foods safer, they spend an equal amount on educating the public about making healthy food choices.

On the CBC website, one fellow wrote the comment “If mother nature wanted cancer fighting agents in food, she would have put them in our foods.” Ummmm, well, she did. Cancer-fighting compounds, such as antioxidants, are in all types of natural foods, such as fruits and vegetables. The problem is that most of us don’t eat nearly as much of these cancer-fighting foods as we should and when we do they are processed and not in their natural form.

I would like to end by saying that the Canadian government is simply asking for public feedback about adding this anti-cancer drug to junk foods, but in their opinion there is no risk. What this means is that it is already a done deal and sooner than you can say “French Fries Fatten my Fabulous Figure” ten times fast, asparaginase is going to be added to all sorts of fried and baked goods. So, if consuming this anti-cancer drug in your food is really a concern my solution for you is simple – don’t eat these types of foods. My god, they are bad for us all, what more proof do you need?

Other Related Posts and Articles you May Find Interesting: “Healthy Weight Loss Diet May Prevent Cancer”, “Alcohol Affects Risks of Cancer and Heart Disease in Women”, “Eating Organic Foods” and “Health Problems Associated with Being Overweight”.

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