The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has issued a public safety warning over levels of acrylamide – a chemical compound that can be found in some food when cooked at high temperatures. Studies have found that high levels of this compound can lead to cancer.

High levels of acrylamide can be found in toast and potato products, such as waffles, breakfast cereals and coffee. A new campaign is encouraging the public to reduce their risks by aiming for a golden colour when frying and roasting, as opposed to dark brown.

Roasted coffee beans, used for espresso, can be the source of acrylamide / PA Images

Root vegetables like potatoes and parsnips have also been found to contain dangerous amounts of the compound once they have been cooked or roasted for a long time at high temperatures and are dark brown or crispy.

However, experts say that boiling and microwaving foods present lower levels of acrylamide.

The news follows studies on mice that have shown high levels of the compound causing neurological damage and cancer. Although studies on humans are yet to prove conclusive, the US Environmental Protection Agency has said that acrylamide is “likely to be carcinogenic.”

The Government’s current advice for the public is to eat a balanced, varied diet while making sure starchy foods are cooked until they are golden and no more.