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What's Up With Those Green Potato Chips You Sometimes Find?

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??Well, they're not dyed for St. Patrick’s Day. These are just from potatoes in which chlorophyll had started to form. This can happen when potatoes, which grow underground, are exposed to too much light in the field or factory, in storage, on the store shelf, or in your home.

The USDA’s “Standards for Grades of Potatoes” consider a potato that’s more than 5 percent green to be damaged, and potato lots that contain them will be graded below US Grade #1. That means most green potatoes never even make it to market.

You’ll still see some every now and again, either in whole or chip form, if conditions in the potato chip plant, the grocery store, or your kitchen are right. Fluorescent lighting and a room temperature of at least 68°F can get the greening process going in a raw potato in just three to five days, and some varieties of potato will start turning in as little as 12 hours even under low incandescent lighting.

By itself, chlorophyll is nothing to be worried about; it’s tasteless and nontoxic. In the process of a potato going green, though, conditions are also right for it to synthesize more of a glycoalkaloid (alkaloid + sugar) poison called solanine, which potato plants produce in their leaves, stems, sprouts and flesh as a defense against insects and other predators. Ingesting solanine can cause nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps, burning sensations in the throat, dysrhythmia, headaches, fever, hallucinations, jaundice, paralysis and death. Toxic levels for people are around one one-hundredth of an ounce for a 200-pound person, who would have to eat about 20 pounds of normal whole potatoes in one day to get sick. With very green potatoes, where the solanine level can increase ten-fold, only two pounds of spuds could leave you ill.

As for potato chips, solanine formation is localized near the potato's skin, usually no deeper than 3 mm. As they're peeled for processing, most of the flesh making up those three millimeters is typically removed. Whatever flecks of green are left are not going to be enough to do anything to you. So, go ahead - finish the whole bag if you want.

What About Dark Brown Potato Chips?

A different matter altogether. Brown potato chips are the result of potatoes being stored too long at low temperatures and accumulating excess sugar. When a potato chip is baked or fried, the sugar reacts with amino acids to produce that beautiful golden-brown color, but too much sugar leads to a very dark brown, almost burnt-looking, color and a slightly different, off flavor.

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Big Questions
What Is the Difference Between Generic and Name Brand Ibuprofen?
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What is the difference between generic ibuprofen vs. name brands?

Yali Friedman:

I just published a paper that answers this question: Are Generic Drugs Less Safe than their Branded Equivalents?

Here’s the tl;dr version:

Generic drugs are versions of drugs made by companies other than the company which originally developed the drug.

To gain FDA approval, a generic drug must:

  • Contain the same active ingredients as the innovator drug (inactive ingredients may vary)
  • Be identical in strength, dosage form, and route of administration
  • Have the same use indications
  • Be bioequivalent
  • Meet the same batch requirements for identity, strength, purity, and quality
  • Be manufactured under the same strict standards of FDA's good manufacturing practice regulations required for innovator products

I hope you found this answer useful. Feel free to reach out at www.thinkbiotech.com. For more on generic drugs, you can see our resources and whitepapers at Pharmaceutical strategic guidance and whitepapers

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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Big Questions
Do Cats Fart?
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Certain philosophical questions can invade even the most disciplined of minds. Do aliens exist? Can a soul ever be measured? Do cats fart?

While the latter may not have weighed heavily on some of history’s great brains, it’s certainly no less deserving of an answer. And in contrast to existential queries, there’s a pretty definitive response: Yes, they do. We just don’t really hear it.

According to veterinarians who have realized their job sometimes involves answering inane questions about animals passing gas, cats have all the biological hardware necessary for a fart: a gastrointestinal system and an anus. When excess air builds up as a result of gulping breaths or gut bacteria, a pungent cloud will be released from their rear ends. Smell a kitten’s butt sometime and you’ll walk away convinced that cats fart.

The discretion, or lack of audible farts, is probably due to the fact that cats don’t gulp their food like dogs do, leading to less air accumulating in their digestive tract.

So, yes, cats do fart. But they do it with the same grace and stealth they use to approach everything else. Think about that the next time you blame the dog.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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