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Would You Supersize My Cancer, Please?

A Case Study Exploring Chemicals in the News


Author(s)

Ashley Coffelt
Department of Chemistry
Missouri State University
Mark M. Richter
Department of Chemistry
Missouri State University
markrichter@missouristate.edu

Abstract

The recent discovery of acrylamide in both fried and baked foods like French fries and potato chips has caused alarm. Acrylamide is both a known carcinogen in animals when administered in high doses and a neurotoxin when humans are exposed to large amounts in the workplace. However, the link between acrylamide in food and human health is much less clear. In working through the case, students compare the accuracy of news headlines, articles, and web pages with the information presented in scientific journals. This case was designed for non-science major courses and can also be used in seminars.


Objectives

  • Compare and analyze the headlines of news articles, assuming all are generated based on the same scientific information.
  • Compare and analyze the headlines of news articles with the content of the news articles.
  • Compare and contrast the information presented in news articles with that found in scientific articles.
  • Have students evaluate their own choices (with specific reference to French fries) as more information is made available to them.
  • Have students appreciate the value of chemistry, and science in general, to their everyday lives.

Keywords

Acrylamide; arginine; toxicity; carcinogen; neurotoxin; exposure; risk assessment; fried food; cancer risk; carcinogen; science journalism

Topical Areas

Scientific method, Science and the media

Educational Level

High school, Undergraduate lower division

Format

PDF

Type / Methods

Interrupted

Language

English

Subject Headings

Chemistry (General)  |   Science (General)  |   Nutrition  |   Food Science / Technology  |   Journalism  |  


Date Posted

03/25/08

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