Canadian Health officials are considering allowing food manufacturers to include the anti-cancer drug asparaginase in foods such as potato chips and french fries. The drug asparaginase is injected in leukemia patients and marketed under the brand name Elspar.
Asparaginase breaks down asparagine, an amino acid that kills cancer cells caused from acrylamide, a chemical linked to cancer produced from frying foods at extremely high temperatures such as french fries, Chinese food fried in woks, and potato chips.
Tom Blackwell with the National Post notes that food manufacturers are bracing for the possibility of regulations that could limit levels of acrylamide or ban it outright. As a result, Health Canada is suggesting removing the prescription requirement for asparaginase so food companies can include the drug in their products. Health Canada is accepting feedback on their proposal for 75 days, and could implement it in six to eight months.
The National Post article includes a convenient disclaimer from Varoujan Yaylayan, an associate professor with McGill University’s food-science department, who claims asparaginase is destroyed in cooking so would have no impact on people consuming the food.
But what if over time trace amounts of the drug enter the body and have a cumulative effect? — especially considering that the side-effects associated with asparaginase are agitation; chills; confusion; depression; drowsiness; fatigue; fever; headache; hives; irritability; joint pain; loss of appetite; muscle pain; nausea; rash; vomiting; weight loss; difficulty breathing; tightness in the chest; and allergic or hypersensitivity reaction.
Asparaginase has also been associated with pancreatitis, and a bleeding disorder known as coagulopathy, leading to bleeding or thrombotic events such as stroke.
And if the risk of side effects from being unwittingly exposed to this drug — courtesy of Canadian health officials — doesn’t irk you to the bone, think of the huge profits the Canadian government is guaranteeing drug manufactures at public expense.