Cooking potatoes, bread and chips to a brown color may cause cancer, according to the Food Standards Agency (FSA). The government agency says that when you make them too crunchy and brown, they release acrylamide, a carcinogenic chemical.

The chemical is normally produced when starchy foods are cooked at high temperatures. The chemical can also be produced when making toast and the darker the toast is, the more acrylamide is in it.During animal studies, acrylamide has been shown to devastate DNA and cause cancer. The same effect can happen to humans but further studies are still needed.

The scientists believe that consumption of it at a high amount can increase one’s risk of cancer. It may also cause problems in the nervous and reproductive systems, the BBC reports. During the browning process, the sugar, amino acids and water present in the bread combine to create colour and acrylamide – as well as flavour and aromas.

The Food Standards Agency says it is not clear exactly how much acrylamide can be tolerated by people, but it does believe that we are eating too much of it. Tobacco also produces acrylamide. Smokers are exposed about three to four times to it than non-smokers.

According to Emma Shields, a health information officer from Cancer Research UK, the effects of the chemical on humans remain unclear. Nevertheless, it is better to follow a healthier diet.

“To be on the safe side, people can reduce their exposure by following a normal healthy, balanced diet – which includes eating fewer high calorie foods like crisps, chips and biscuits, which are the major sources of acrylamide,” says Shields. “The UK Food Standards Agency also advises that people cook starchy foods like potatoes and bread to a golden yellow colour or lighter, as the time and temperature of cooking determine the amount of acrylamide produced.”