LOS ANGELES (CN) – Heinz, Frito-Lay, Kettle Foods and Lance Inc. agreed to slash levels of cancer-causing acrylamide in their potato chips and french fries as part of a settlement with California Attorney General Edmund Brown.
Brown sued the companies in 2005, along with Burger King, Wendy’s, McDonald’s, KFC and Procter & Gamble, for allegedly selling chips and fries containing high levels of the carcinogen. Acrylamide is a byproduct of frying, roasting and baking foods – particularly potatoes – that contain amino acids.
KFC, Wendy’s, McDonald’s and Burger King settled the claims last year, agreeing to post acrylamide warnings in their restaurants and pay penalties. Procter & Gamble said it would reduce the harmful chemical in Pringles by 50 percent, so no warning label was needed.
Frito-Lay, California’s largest potato chip-seller, agreed to cut acrylamide levels by 20 percent, while Kettle Chips maker, Kettle Foods, said it would reduce the carcinogen by 87 percent. Most of the Cape Cod chips made by Lance Inc. are near compliance, but the company agreed to post warning labels on, or stop selling, any chips that exceed 275 parts per billion.
Frito-Lay will pay $1.5 million in penalties and costs, but could end up paying $550,000 less if it reduces the acrylamide levels in half the time stipulated by the settlement. Kettle Foods will pay $350,000, Lance $95,000 and Heinz $600,000.
Brown called the settlements a “victory for public health and safety in California.” He urged other companies to follow their lead in reducing acrylamide in chips and fries.