Chip companies settle acrylamide lawsuit in California

by Eric Schroeder
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LOS ANGELES — California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. on Aug. 1 settled lawsuits against four food companies after the companies agreed to cut the levels of acrylamide in their potato chips and french fries. Studies have shown that high levels of acrylamide may cause cancer.

The companies — H.J. Heinz Co., Frito-Lay, Inc., Kettle Foods, Inc., and Lance, Inc. — originally were named in a 2005 lawsuit along with McDonald’s Corp., Wendy’s International, Inc., Burger King Corp., KFC and Procter & Gamble Co. The restaurant chains named in the suit last year agreed to post acrylamide warnings at their restaurants and pay civil penalties and costs, while P.&G. earlier this year agreed to reduce acrylamide in Pringles potato chips by 50%.

"The companies agreed to reduce this carcinogenic chemical in fried potatoes — a victory for public health and safety in California," Mr. Brown said. "Other companies should follow this lead and take steps to reduce acrylamide in french fries and potato chips."

The Attorney General first reached agreement with Heinz, the manufacturer of Ore-Ida frozen french fries and tater tots. Heinz agreed to pay $600,000 in penalties and costs and will change its fried potatoes to contain 50% less acrylamide.

Under terms of the settlement with Frito-Lay, Kettle Foods and Lance, the companies have agreed to reduce acrylamide over a three-year period to 275 parts per billion. The move would mark a 20% reduction in acrylamide for Frito-Lay, which also agreed to pay $1.5 million in penalties.

For Kettle Foods, which agreed to pay $350,000 in penalties and costs, the move would mark an 87% reduction in acrylamide. Also as part of its settlement, Kettle Foods must immediately place a warning label on packages of its Cape Cod Robust Russets, which contain more than 7,000 parts per billion of acrylamide. If it fails to do so the product will be removed from the market, the Attorney General said.

Lance Foods has agreed to pay $95,000 in fees and costs.

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