Acrylamide is most prevalent in baked or toasted snacks.
Manufacturers in the European Union (EU) are preparing for new legislation that will regulate the amount of acrylamide in their products for the first time.
The regulations, passed by the EU last year, will restrict the amount of acrylamide permissible in packaged foods and will force manufacturers to actively reduce the amount of acrylamide in their final products when it becomes law tomorrow.
The EU has established ‘benchmark’ levels of acrylamide for various food products, ranging from 350 micrograms (μg) of acrylamide per kilogram for biscuits and cookies to 750μg per kilogram for potato crisps and 850μg per kilogram for instant soluble coffee.
The benchmark levels for foods specifically targeted towards children – like baby foods and rusks – are notably lower, reflecting widespread concern around the health implications of acrylamide.
What is acrylamide?
Essentially, acrylamide is a by-product of the cooking process used in the production of a variety of foods including baked, fried, roasted or toasted bread; snack products like potato chips; and some other products such as coffee.
Any food that contains the naturally occurring amino acid asparagine and reducing sugars (carbohydrates) will yield acrylamide when heated to temperatures above 120°C. Fried potato products like fries, potato chips and hash browns have been found to contain the most acrylamide while toasted bread can have up to ten times as much acrylamide as untoasted bread.
Acrylamide is a proven carcinogen and poses severe health risks, especially for children, whose diets tend to be more heavily weighted towards bread, cereals and potato-based snacks than that of adults.
That is what prompted the EU to take action: this new legislation follows the example of California’s Proposition 65, which requires manufacturers to inform consumers of the presence of any listed substance or carcinogen – include acrylamide – in the products they consume.
It comes less than a week after beverage companies in the UK and Ireland were hit by extra regulatory pressure over the sugar content of their drinks.
It’s expected to accelerate the industry’s acrylamide reduction efforts, which had so far been voluntary and based purely on consumer concern.
In February, Orkla extended its European license agreement for Renaissance BioScience’s acrylamide-reducing yeast, having signed an original partnership to sell the product in the European market in May 2017. Acrylow works alongside traditional bakers’ and brewers’ yeasts to lower the amount of asparagine present in foods prior to heating.
Jaap van den Burg, marketing manager – fine baking for DSM, which makes the PreventASe acrylamide reduction ingredient, told FoodBev magazine in March: “Many food manufacturers who produced baked goods, snacks and cereals have already taken significant steps to mitigagte acrylamide in their products, driven by health concerns but also legislation in other regions of the world, as well as campaigning by food industry bodies such as FoodDrinkEurope.
“The new legislation in Europe will give this effort much more focus and transparency, and create a greater awareness for this topic across the food industry.”
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2023