Would You Like to Add Some Fries, Ma’am? (Why you shouldn’t)

Before you say a delighted “yes” to the McDonald’s order-taker, read this.

Yesterday, Patch and I were doing our regular study time. I would usually check her notes and test papers. We’d go over the answers, naturally focusing on the ones she didn’t get right. One particular paper was her Science quiz from last week. The topic was food groups – carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals. Which food to eat most, more, some and least.

She scored 28/30. Not bad at all. Despite the fairly high standards set by the school (80% is passing grade, i.e. equal to a grade of 75), I’m not a very grade-conscious mom. Believe me, I don’t keep a small green booklet called Class Record. (Believe me more, there are parents who do. And believe me most, they don’t just keep track of their own child’s scores; they also keep track of the competitors’. Yeah! Let’s talk about it over coffee next time…)

Test I. How much should you take in of the following foods? Write most, more, some and least in the space provided.

Item # 4. french fries. My daughter’s answer: least (not very honest, she’s smart! hehe). Teacher says: X, no deal.

Me: So what could the correct answer possibly be?

Patch: *shrugs* I heard Ms. V say it’s “most”.

Me: *goes ballistic* Whaaat? Eat fries as much as you eat rice??? French fries are junk food, doesn’t she know that?!!

Google comes to the rescue: Are french fries healthy?

Look at the first article I stumble upon:

FoxNews.com – French Fries in Childhood Tied to Breast Cancer? Some excerpts from the article:

In a new study, women were more likely to get breast cancer if they had regularly eaten french fries decades earlier as preschoolers.

It’s based on the Nurses’ Health Study, a long-term health study of a large group of nurses. The study focused on 582 nurses who had breast cancer and more than 1,500 who didn’t have breast cancer in 1993. Their mothers were asked how often the nurses had eaten 30 different foods as preschoolers.

For every extra weekly serving of french fries that the women reportedly ate as preschoolers, their risk of breast cancer as adults rose 27 percent, write Karin Michels, ScD, PhD, and colleagues.

My already-huge eyes gaped wider. “Haaaaa? Ganoon?Why???”, I asked, as if in denial (for I, too, am a lover of french fries). I went on to read the another article which came up in my Google search. From Dr. Greene:

[In 2002,] The World Health Organization convened an emergency expert panel to evaluate the potential health threats of acrylamide, a known toxic substance possibly created by heating starchy foods to high temperatures. The initial study in Sweden that suggested starches produce acrylamide, conducted early in 2002, was viewed with skepticism. But the formation of acrylamide in this way has now been confirmed by independent studies in England, Norway, Switzerland, Germany, and the United States.

The WHO expert panel unanimously concluded that the results of these studies are valid. They also unanimously agreed there is a major concern that the levels of acrylamide found in some potato chips and French fries could cause cancer. The amount of acrylamide varies from brand to brand, and between cooking techniques. The Center for Science in the Public Interest has commissioned testing of levels in some US brands. The acrylamide in a large order of fast food fries was at least 300 times the amount allowed by the EPA in a glass of water. One brand studied contained 600 times the EPA amount.

That’s why. It seems that this is not new information, but I wonder why there wasn’t much noise back then. Or maybe I wasn’t listening. Anyway…

Armed with this info, I wrote the teacher a note. And printed out the articles to go with the note. I did not mean to be condescending, but the teacher needed some updating. I mean, I, too, did not know about the acrylamide thingie. But I know fast-food french fries are heavily laden with trans-fats. To teach children that they should eat fries in the “more” to “most” ranges, ignoring the greasy fact just because they are potatoes, is terrible!

According to Patch, the teacher stared at my “love letter” for a while, and then read the articles with much interest. Later, she retrieved all the test papers from the class and made the necessary corrections with a short explanation that french fries are too fatty (no acrylamide talk, but that’s good enough for me).

Woohoo! A small yet sweet victory for this mother who could only wish for good things for all children, especially her own.

Now, would you like to add some fries, Ma’am?


Find the WHO’s FAQ page on acrylamide here.

16 thoughts on “Would You Like to Add Some Fries, Ma’am? (Why you shouldn’t)

  1. Hi Chats! At least the teacher listened. Just that it’s disturbing to note that there are some teachers who do not keep themselves abreast on what is happening beyond their classrooms. And in my case, one teacher is so bookish she did not accept my daughter’s explanation about Pluto not being a true planet because that’s not what is written in the book. Long story. But anyway, congrats to your sweet victory! 🙂

    Hi Lynn, Good Morning 😀
    So what did your daughter’s teacher say when Pluto’s ejectment from the Solar System was officially announced? Nasa atin ang huling halakhak!
    Seriously, teachers shouldn’t take it too personally. As parents, we’re just concerned that our kids are fed the right info in school.

  2. Naku, medyo out to date ang knowledge ni Ma’am :(. Yup I heard about that here in Germany because people here eat potatoes like rice 🙂 well second to brown bread pala. They even showed in the documentaries that Mc Donalds has the most acrylamide in its fries (compared to other fastfoods here). That has something to do with the temparature and the oil which releases those toxic substance. If you are frying potatoes at home, the best way to reduce this toxic substance is to put the potatoes in water first. O di ba? My mom used to do that before I thought this was just a way to prevent it from turning brown.

    Hi there! So McDonald’s pala yung tinutukoy malamang nung article na may 600x more than the allowable acrylamide… Didn’t we always soak our potatoes in water? Good thing we did, it helps pala.

  3. My mom kept on saying that years ago. Stop eating them fries. And also not to reheat leftover food with potatoes. I heeded the second but not the first. Thanks for the info, I wonder why I didn’t look it up.

    have a great week, 🙂

    Hi Julie! Even potatoes na hindi fried? Favorite ni VGood all kinds of potatoes, fried or sa ulam.

  4. keyword: some. would help a lot if who identifies the potato products.
    nagre-react kasi we’re potato loving family 😀 we looove french fries, from the fastfoods, to frozen bags from groceries.

    good job in correcting the teacher. we love french fries but even i know it’s not healthy.

    Hi Cess! oh, same here. No fastfood trip would be complete without fries. I think there are ways of cooking fries more healthily, like baking (but it’s not the same no? LOL). Sabi dun sa isang article, home frying does not reach 360degC, the heat at which acrylamides are formed. So pwede pa rin some home fries, hooray!

  5. Check out Mcdonalds too for more information. They have a section there called Bag a McMeal. See how the calories add up and why we shouldn’t upsize.

    Hi Em! I went to the McDonalds website and checked out that Bag a Mcmeal page. A Big Mac, large fries and Coke meal is over a thousand calories! :0

  6. I find this incredible. How can she NOT consider fries as junk? Hmm. Buti she’s not planning the school meals huh, or is she?? hehe

    re: parents taking records
    EK! When I was in elementary, my classmate’s mum does this. I told Nanay this woman keeps on asking me questions about my grades, sabi ni Nanay bayaan ko daw.

    Isa lang masasabi ko sa kanila, PRANING! hehe

    Hi auee! No, the teacher doesn’t plan the school meals, buti nalang!
    O di ba, true, meron talagang super-grade conscious parents. LOL. I have nothing against monitoring your child’s scores with a record book, by all means do it if it will help your child perform better. But to meddle and pry on other kids’ grades? haha. Extreme!

  7. Yikes!! And to think we all love fries. I guess just like any “treat”, fries should be taken in moderation. Anything naman na sobra is bad for you.

    Correct, Cookie! Everything in moderation talaga. Hey, enjoy ka dyan sa Big Apple ha!

  8. Yikes, will definitely not be hitting the burger joints again soon. Buti pala ang home-cooked fries, I only bake them at 200 degrees so they should be safe huh?

  9. i admire you so much for keeping your cool!

    uh-oh! acrylamide, one more thing to think about before before scarfing up those french fries…

  10. Hi Chats, I also love fries esp. those of Jollibee’s. And I remember my college friend (a former beauty queen) would tell me not to eat them coz “a minute on the lips, forever on the hips” daw…he he. Anyway, I didn’t listen and am still enjoying my fries while kids have mashed potatoes naman….Now, I’ll just eat fries in moderation na lang after reading this post.

  11. chats, i admire for what you did, way to go!i have done this before, too, when my daughter was marked wrong on her test paper when it should have been marked correct. i personally went to the teacher and brought it to his attention. never happened again.

    i know french fries are not good because it has been soaked in the oil that has been heated over and over again, except of course,the ones i bake which i call un-fried fries.

  12. Oh, but those french fries are my FAVORITE! But, as everyone agrees, moderation is the key…although temptation is ever so close to my workplace (with a McDonald’s just a block away)… :-O

  13. Hi Chats. That’s a great move on your part. Teachers can still learn from parents after all. It’s good that the teacher was open- minded and made necessary action to correct her previous assumption about those fries. As much as I love them, I know they are not healthy. I agree with the others, the key is always moderation.

    Cheers to your sweet victory! Take care!

  14. Nice going Chats. teaching the teacher, i mean sharing with the teacher … you must have written a very tactful letter?

    Makes one wonder how much of what is taught in class is dubious.

    i gotta pass this on to my girls … sobra hilig nila sa fries. What about baked potato kaya — that’s MY fave.

    Hi there, anna! My letter was tactful of course. I wouldn’t want to offend the teacher, who is very nice actually and has been Patch’s Science teacher since grade 1.

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