WRITTEN QUESTION E-1350/02by Erik Meijer (GUE/NGL) to the Commission
(13 May 2002)Subject:
Alarming levels of the carcinogen acrylamide in foods consumed in large quantities1. Is the Commission aware of the minor wave of panic which spread through Sweden uponpublication of a research report indicating that numerous cakes and fried foods made from starch or sugarcontained a substance which can cause cancer: the water treatment substance acrylamide? Is it aware thatshares in the US companies Kelloggs and Quaker Oats Co and the Finnish company CHIPS ABPimmediately fell substantially, while the food safety administration’s website became overloaded?2. What information does the Commission have concerning the study performed at the University of Stockholm which concluded that people who eat large quantities of crisps, chips, cornflakes and certaintypes of bread run an increased risk of contracting cancer, quoting an estimate of hundreds of people perannum in Sweden alone?3. Is fighting cancer a strictly national matter in Europe, or is it also partly a matter for the Food Safety Agency, which is to be temporarily based in Brussels?4. To what extent is fighting cancer a priority of the European Union? Can the Commission comparethe amounts spent on anti-cancer campaigns with those spent on promoting the European Union itself?Might such a comparison be damaging to the EU’s image if it proves to be the case that less is spent oncancer research?5. In addition, how much do the individual Member States, separately from EU, spend on cancerresearch, and how much money do the EU and the Member States spend on promoting the eating of freshvegetables, which is generally believed to reduce the risk of cancer?6. Will the Commission promote larger-scale tests? How much funding might such research receivefrom the EU and Member States?
Answer given by Mr Byrne on behalf of the Commission
(5 July 2002)
The Honourable Member is referred to the answer given by the Commission to Written Question E-1404/02 from Mr Dehousse(
).As regards the specific issues related to cancer, it needs to be highlighted that the claims made regardingan increased cancer toll from acrylamide in food are based upon estimates. However, no long-term study has been performed by the Swedish researchers. As there is no scientific publication on this subject it ispresently difficult to judge the accuracy of the published information in relation to an increased cancer riskin the population.Fighting cancer is not strictly a national matter. The Commission embarked in 1987 on a series of actionplans to prevent cancer, the Europe against Cancer programme. The Commission has also supportedEuropean cancer research through a series of multiannual framework research and developmentprogrammes for at least the same period of time. Within its field of responsibility, the European FoodSafety Authority will also address issues relevant to fighting cancer.17.4.2003 EN C92E/47Official Journal of the European Union