Study finds parsnips contain carcinogen

WASHINGTON (AP) -Parsnips have been found to contain a chemical that can cause genetic mutation and cancer in animals, but the scientist who discovered that says there is no immediate reason for people to stop eating them.

ln a study published today in Science magazine, U.S. agriculture department scientists said parsnip roots contain high levels of psoralens which are not destroyed in normal cooking.

Amount unknown

The report said scientists have known for years that parsnips contain psoralens, naturally occurring chemicals known to cause genetic mutation and cancer in animals when exposed to ultraviolet light. Until now, however, no one knew how much, the study said.

"On the basis of the amounts of psoralens found in the parsnip samples studied
here, it is apparent that consumption of moderate quantities of this vegetable by man can result in the intake of appreciable amounts of psoralens," the scientists said.

Therefore, the researchers said, "psoralen-containing food plants may present some toxicological risk to man."

Not possible

They added "that it is not possible to accurately assess that risk, if it exists, on the basis of the information available to date."

Dr. G. Wayne Ivie who collaborated with Douglas Holt and Marcellus Ivey on the report, said in a telephone interview that just because it is not possible to assess a potential risk does not mean that a risk exists.

"The last thing I would recommend is that people stop eating parsnips,'' said Ivie. a chemist at the Agricultural Research Service laboratory in College Station Texas. "People have been eating parsnips for years with no ill effects we know about. The potential is there but I think it's rather small."

Source: Calgary Herald, Fri. Aug. 14, 1981.