On 4 June 2015, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published its first full risk assessment of acrylamide in food. Experts from EFSA’s Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM) reconfirmed previous evaluations that acrylamide in food potentially increases the risk of developing cancer for consumers in all age groups.
Evidence from animal studies shows that acrylamide and its metabolite glycidamide are genotoxic and carcinogenic: they damage DNA and cause cancer. Evidence from human studies that dietary exposure to acrylamide causes cancer is currently limited and inconclusive. To know more about the situation in EU click here or download EFSA’s infographic.
Last week the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued final guidance to the food industry to help growers, manufacturers and food service operators take steps to reduce levels of acrylamide in certain foods.
Acrylamide is a chemical that may form in certain foods during high-temperature cooking, such as frying, roasting and baking. The National Toxicology Program (an interagency program that evaluates possible health risks associated with exposure to certain chemicals) characterizes the substance as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.” And efforts to reduce acrylamide levels are already underway in many sectors of the food industry.
To help mitigate potential human health risks, the FDA’s guidance recommends that companies be aware of the levels of acrylamide in the foods they produce and consider adopting approaches, if feasible, that reduce acrylamide in their products. The guidance also offers a range of steps that growers, manufacturers, and food service operators may take to help reduce acrylamide levels.
For instance, for french fries, the recommended maximum cooking temperature for frying is 345-350 ºF/approximately 170-175 ºC (Refs. 30, 43). Providing appropriate cooking instructions on frozen french fry packages may help reduce acrylamide formation safely during final preparation by consumers and food service operators. Examples of such instructions (which may not be applicable to all products) are:
• Cook to a light golden color. Avoid browning fries.
• Avoid overcooking or undercooking.
• Avoid cooking in a toaster oven to prevent overcooking.
• Reduce cooking time when cooking small amounts.
Through this guidance and various research activities, the FDA is helping companies reduce acrylamide and reduce any potential risks to human health. The focus of this non-binding guidance is on raw materials, processing practices, and ingredients pertaining to potato-based foods (such as french fries and potato chips), cereal-based foods (such as cookies, crackers, breakfast cereals and toasted bread), and coffee, all sources of acrylamide exposure.
Because acrylamide is found primarily in potato-based foods, cereal-based foods, and coffee, the FDA’s best advice for consumers to help limit acrylamide intake is to adopt a healthy eating plan, consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, that:
• Emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products;
• Includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts; and
• Limits saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium) and added sugars.