Acrylamide evaluations in EU and USA – FDA Final Guidance on reduction in certain foods

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.

Additional advice to consumers pertaining to acrylamide, including recommended food storage and preparation methods, is available on FDA website.

See also: Acrylamide – Nothing seems to help on focusonfoodsafety.wordpress.com, by Stefan Fabiansson.

EFSA opinion – Risk profile related to production and consumption of insects as food and feed

On 8th October the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published the following scientific opinion about the consumptions of insects as food and feed.

The European Commission (EC) asked the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to assess the microbiological, chemical and environmental risks arising from the production and consumption of insects as food and feed and to cover the main steps from the production chain up to consumption by pets, food producing animals and humans. EFSA was requested to provide an overall conclusion based on the above assessment, on the potential risks posed by the use of insects in food and feed, relative to such risks posed by the use of other protein sources used in food or feed.

In agreement with the EC, this opinion has the format of a risk profile including considerations of hazards associated with insects as food and feed, placed in the context of hazards associated with other sources of protein. The mandate also considers potential risks arising from importation of insects and products of insects from countries outside the EU, but not the importation of live insects. Health or welfare of insects, hazards related to insects harvested from the wild, nutritional value of insects as food and feed and occupational hazards are outside the scope of this opinion.

This opinion is based on data from peer reviewed scientific literature, assessments performed at Member State level and information from relevant stakeholders that were invited to provide information as hearing experts at a working group meeting. All data and information are compiled in the format of a risk profile. The risk profile addresses biological hazards (bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi, prions), chemical hazards (heavy metals, toxins, veterinary drugs, hormones and others) as well as allergens and hazards related to the environment.

It is concluded that for both biological and chemical hazards, the specific production methods, the substrate used, the stage of harvest, the insect species, as well as the methods used for further processing will all have an impact on the possible presence of biological and chemical contaminants in insect food and feed products.

The opinion addresses the potential occurrence of hazards in non-processed insects, grown on different substrate groups, in comparison to the occurrence in other non-processed sources of protein of animal origin.

When currently allowed feed materials are used as substrate to feed insects, the possible occurrence of microbiological hazards is expected to be comparable to their occurrence in other non-processed sources of protein of animal origin. The possible occurrence of prions in non-processed insects will depend on whether the substrate includes protein of human or ruminant origin. Data on transfer of chemical contaminants from different substrates to the insects are very limited. Other relevant substrates and the possible occurrence of hazards are considered and summarised in the opinion. Substrates like human and animal manure are also considered. For both biological and chemical hazards their possible occurrence in non-processed insects fed on such substrates needs to be specifically assessed.

The environmental risk of insect farming is expected to be comparable to other animal production systems. Insect waste may contain insects and insect material. The adoption of existing waste management strategies should be applicable for managing waste from insect production. Assessment of the individual production systems will determine the precise strategy to be adopted on a case by case basis.

The opinion also notes the knowledge gaps and uncertainty related to possible hazards when insects are used as food and feed and concludes that there are no systematically collected data on animal and human consumption of insects. Also, there are only a few studies on the occurrence of microbials potentially pathogenic for vertebrates as well as published data on hazardous chemicals in reared insects.

Further research for better assessment of microbiological and chemical risks from insects as food and feed including studies on the occurrence of hazards when using particular substrates, like food waste and manure is recommended.

(Source: EFSA Website)