Health & Fitness

Cancer in a Can: The Gruesome Truth of How Pringles are Really Made


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As a child, they were a luxury snack. Even today, I admit a weakness for the cans of stacked chips, the ever ubiquitous Pringles. But do you know how they’re made?

First, consider this: Pringles once argued – to try and avoid a tax on chips in the United Kingdom – that their chips contained so few actual potatoes that they shouldn’t technically be considered potato chips.

Yes, you read that right: Pringles argued that their cans shouldn’t be classified as potato chips.

So, if not a potato product, what are Pringles actually?

To start, let’s think about that perfect shape: That’s not something that could ever occur naturally. There’s no way to slice potatoes that perfectly.

Instead, Pringles start as a dough – made of corn, rice, potato, wheat and all sorts of unimaginable additives – which is then rolled out into ultra-thin sheets. Those sheets are then cut into chip-shaped cookies by a machine, after which they’re processed.

As io9 notes:

“The chips move forward on a conveyor belt until they’re pressed onto molds, which give them the curve that makes them fit into one another. Those molds move through boiling oil … Then they’re blown dry, sprayed with powdered flavors, and at last, flipped onto a slower-moving conveyor belt in a way that allows them to stack. From then on, it’s into the cans … and off towards the innocent mouths of the consumers.”

So let’s go back to those additives. Do you know what you’re really eating – besides a sludge of corn, rice, potatoes, and wheat – when you eat a Pringles?

It happens that a lot of those additives are pretty nasty, and one of them in particular – acrylamide – is a carcinogen created by the production process of those chips. In fact, acrylamide occurs nearly anytime carbohydrate-rich foods are cooked at high temperatures – whether that’s baked, fried, or roasted. As a general rule, if those carbs are heated at a high-enough temp to produce a dry, brown or yellow surface, it probably resulted in the production of acrylamides.

And when it comes to potato chips – Pringles or otherwise – the acrylamide content is often through the roof, to the point where California once tried to force potato chip makers to label their products as likely carcinogens. (The suit was settled after potato chip companies agreed to lower the acrylamide levels in their chips to a mere 500 times or so more than the recommended limit, rather than the 900 times greater than the recommended limit it had been.)

In fact, the 2005 report “How Potato Chips Stack Up: Levels of Cancer-Causing Acrylamide in Popular Brands of Potato Chips,” issued by the California-based Environmental Law Foundation (ELF), laid out all the data. Their analysis found that all potato chip products tested exceeded the legal limit of acrylamide by a minimum of 39 times, and as much as 910 times!

Yikes! So even if your potato chips aren’t Pringles, you may still be taking in plenty of carcinogens. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

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