The Serious Reason You Should Never Store Potatoes in the Fridge

It could put your health at risk.

Young potatoes on white wooden background, view from aboveYeti studio/Shutterstock

You’ve just come back from the farmer’s market or the grocery store with a big sack of potatoes. But you’re not going to use them all at once, so the best way to keep them fresh is to stow them in the fridge, right?

Not so fast. When it comes to potatoes, sticking them in the refrigerator could increase your risk of cancer. Why? Here’s the chemistry behind it:

The colder temperature of a refrigerator can convert the starch in potatoes into sugar, the Mirror reports. Then, when you bake or fry the potatoes at temperatures above 250ºF, those sugars combine with the amino acid asparagine and produce a chemical called acrylamide, according to the American Cancer Society.

Acrylamide is a chemical that’s used to make paper, dyes, and plastics, as well as to treat drinking water and sewage, according to the National Cancer Institute. The main way people are exposed to acrylamide is through smoking, but it’s also found in foods such as French fries and potato chips, crackers, bread, cookies, cereals, and coffee. Here are 10 more foods that are directly tied to cancer.

So how dangerous is acrylamide? Research in mice has shown that the chemical increased the subjects’ risk of cancer. Studies in humans haven’t demonstrated consistent evidence that exposure to acrylamide through diet raises the risk, but there have been mixed results about kidney, endometrial, and ovarian cancer.

Though mice and humans metabolize acrylamide at different rates, the National Toxicology Program classifies the chemical as a carcinogen based on studies of lab animals that ingested acrylamide in drinking water. Look out for these other things in your home that could contain carcinogens.

The good news? Studies have shown that not refrigerating potatoes and decreasing cooking time to avoid browning can reduce acrylamide content. So play it safe and go with the American Cancer Society’s recommendation for your spuds: Keep them out of the fridge, store them in a cool, dry place, such as a cabinet or pantry, and just cook them lightly. Here are 20 more foods you’re spoiling by keeping them in the fridge, but don’t think your pantry is your be-all and end-all when it comes to food storage. These are the 16 foods you should never keep in your pantry.

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Jennifer McCaffery
Jen McCaffery is an associate editor for Reader’s Digest. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Prevention, Rhode Island Monthly, and other publications and websites. When she’s not writing or editing, she’s growing veggies or trying to figure out the way home from assorted trails.