Something Else to Worry About

I have a confession to make. I’m not a proper woman. Oh, I know I look the part – make up, uncomfortable shoes – but it’s all a façade. And here’s the proof: chocolate! I can take it or leave it. It really doesn’t bother me.

Me, I’m more of a bread and potatoes man, myself. I’ll eat pretty much anything slapped between two slices of bread. And why would anyone deny themselves roast potatoes, brown and crunchy on the outside and white and fluffy in the middle; or chunky, golden chips? And as for crisps! Oh heaven! This is my favourite brand. Did you know that Walkers employ 4,000 people to produce the 11 million packets of fried potato snacks they sell every day. So clearly, I’m not alone. In fact, on average, we each eat 53lb of bread and 242lb of spuds a year. Two and half sacks of spuds! And one of those sacks we consume in the form of chips, crisps and such like.

Bread and potatoes are not just tasty, but cheap and nutritious too; so mine is a healthier obsession than, say, smoking cigarettes. Okay, crisps might not be the healthiest option, but there’s definitely no government warnings on this packet telling me that eating crisps can seriously damage your health; eating crisps can harm your unborn baby; eating crisps kills.

No just 193 Calories of eating pleasure per bag – and up to 500 times the amount of acrylamide allowed in drinking water by the World Health Organization.

Acryla-what? I’d never heard of it, either. It’s a carcinogenic substance produced when you smoke cigarettes. It’s also used in a number of industries –  paper, textiles, plastics. Fortunately, it’s biodegradable and it doesn’t accumulate in the environment. And, in its polymerised state, it’s used quite safely in water purification. Not wholly safe, though; hence the half a microgram per litre WHO limit.

There were some rather scary news reports earlier this year. Researchers in Sweden reported that acrylamide is naturally produced when starch-based foods are cooked at temperatures higher than 120oC – frying, baking and grilling, for example. They were so concerned by their initial results, they took the unheard of step of going public with this information before the official publication of their findings. Why the rush?

It’s estimated that a third of cancers are caused by our diet. We just don’t know what foods, why and how. Or at least, we didn’t. This could be a major part of the answer.

There is no dose of acrylamide so low that it doesn’t increase the risk of cancer. And this single crisp here could take my acrylamide intake up to the WHO maximum for drinking water. And who ever ate one crisp?

Admittedly, one crisp or even one packet of crisps isn’t likely to make me ill, but we’re talking about a lifetime of constant exposure here. I’ve been eating this stuff since I was a baby; and now I’m – er –  thirty-several. And I’ve been popping a bag of these in my children’s lunch boxes nearly ever day on the basis that crisps are less likely to rot their teeth than chocolate.

I thought fags were bad! It seems that long-term consumption of bread is a potential killer.  It’s not the BSE prions in your burger that will take you out, but the sesame seed bap encasing it. Pizza is passé. Farewell French fries, you’ve had your chips.

Perhaps my packet of crisps should carry a health warning.

It’s obvious from the numbers of smokers who willingly inhale carcinogens that simply putting a warning on the packet doesn’t necessarily act as a deterrent. How many of you smoke? And how many of you would knowingly wean your babies onto food that might kill them?

Not only do children generally eat more of this type of food than adults anyway, but a child eating this packet of crisps is getting, by bodyweight, two to three times the exposure I would get from eating them.

There’s always something to worry about, isn’t there? Having encouraged my children to eat crisps instead of sweets and chocolate, what do I say to them now?

“It’s too late for me, darlings, but save yourselves!!” Crunch.


Very good. Nice use of humour and props. Very expressive”

“Interesting. I never knew! A good way of having the crisp packet with your notes. Good body gestures”

“Grabbed our attention from the beginning. Good use of statistics to capture audience. Very animated and descriptive. Really in command of topic and use of language. Pause while looked at prompt sheet worked well most of the time.”

“Interesting speech development and great use of facts. Need to get your timing of the speech tighter. Great use of props.”

“Quiet. Loved the structure and enthusiasm for subject.”

“Interesting. Good use of packet of crisps. Maybe work on the flow a bit.”

“Theatrical and wonderful treatment of a topic.”

“You made a brilliant speech. Informative, entertaining and well structured.”

“Nice way of backing into the title topic. Well constructed and great expressiveness. Might try relying less on notes, but a minor point. Superb speech, well researched.”

“Excellent opening! Good use of props.”

“Great vocal variety. You really got the full value from each word. Be careful when picking up props to speak to back of room.”

“Again, entertaining and original. Maybe a bit confusing. Great use of prop and humour. You’re really cranking through the programme and well done.”

“The use of vivid examples and personal experience to bring out the topic. The organisation of the speech is good but personally think the pace can be faster.”

“Excellent use of props. Good facial expressions; these were varied. An interesting subject which you cleverly got onto. It wasn’t immediately clear what you were going to talk about. A strong opening which grabbed my attention.”

“Funny. Interesting information. Maybe work on hot using the notes next time.”

“Very good. Humour, even though tough subject. Good projection. Animated. Props very good.”

“Very clever, creative. Great job. Try to prepare more.”

“Your best speech so far but some merging that I have seen. Brilliant structure. I particularly liked the vocal variety.”