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Let's talk...Acrylamide


The Food Standards Agency

The Food Standards Agency will soon launch a public campaign pertaining to the chemical, Acrylamide, focusing on its potential as a cancer forming contaminant in humans. The campaign will indubitably receive press attention, and as such we felt it was both important and necessary that you are wholly aware of the facts as far as we know them.

What is Acrylamide?

Acrylamide is a chemical which occurs naturally in food as a result of cooking starch rich food at high temperatures, i.e. when baking or frying. It is also likely to be produced by grilling and roasting starchy food. Acrylamide is also present in cigarette smoke and coffee.

What's the issue?

In 2002, Swedish studies revealed that high levels of acrylamide formed during the frying or baking of potato or cereal products. This raised worldwide public concern because studies in laboratory animals suggest acrylamide has the potential to cause cancer in humans.


This is not a new risk, acrylamide is formed in food by common cooking practices and so people are likely to have been exposed to acrylamide in their diet for some considerable time.

Should you be worried?

Studies in rodents have found that acrylamide ingestion increases the risk factors for several types of cancer; however, the evidence from human studies is still inconclusive.

Should food business owners be worried?

High levels of acrylamide are certainly undesirable and may be treated as hazardous, meaning that they could potentially be classed as chemical contamination under the Food Hygiene Regulations.


However, how this would be determined by an EHO is uncertain, at least in the short term. The likelihood is that they would be more interested in your understanding of the potential issues posed by acrylamide -  and how you are seeking to minimise the risks.

Foods most likely to produce acrylamide

Several foods have the potential to naturally produce acrylamide, with some of the most notable culprits listed below:


Chips, French fries and all battered or fried vegetables, prune juice, cereals, cereal based products and grains, bread, toasted / roasted nuts and peanut butter, crisps, cookies, cakes and crackers, pies, coffee, cocoa.

 

Top tips

  • Cook or toast foods to light rather than dark colours;
  • Always follow manufacturers’ cooking instructions;
  • Fry foods at lower temperatures;
  • Decrease the cooking time when possible;
  • Blanch potatoes before frying them;
  • Avoid overheating oils and fats;
  • Frequently change oils and fats.
  • Don’t store potatoes in the fridge;
  • Avoid bruised potatoes.

Food Manufacturers

It is almost impossible to avoid acrylamide completely. However, the food industry are working on ways to reduce acrylamide in food through control of cooking processes and by researching ways of reducing the levels of acrylamide precursors in food ingredients.


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