Acrylamide in food is a public health concern | European Food Safety Authority | Organic Lifestyle

Acrylamide in food is a public health concern

Following is an excerpt from Food Standards AUS/NZ:

Acrylamide and food

(October 2016)

What is acrylamide?

Acrylamide is a chemical that can form when certain starchy foods are cooked or processed.
While there’s no direct evidence that acrylamide can cause cancer in humans, there is evidence it can cause cancer in laboratory animals. Read more about this evidence.
Therefore, FSANZ believes that it is prudent to reduce our exposure to acrylamide in food.

How are Australians and New Zealanders exposed to acrylamide?

Acrylamide has been detected in a range of foods including fried or roasted potato products, cereal-based products (including sweet biscuits and toasted bread) and coffee.
Estimated dietary exposures of Australian consumers to acrylamide in food were investigated as a part of the first phase of the 24th Australian Total Diet Study. The study found that the levels of acrylamide were generally lower than, or comparable to, those reported in previous Australian and international studies.
However, the estimated dietary exposures of Australian consumers were in the range of those considered to be of possible concern to human health by the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives.
The New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has reassessed dietary exposure with a survey of foods contributing to acrylamide intakes in New Zealand. The ministry updated its survey in January 2012. The survey found that dietary exposure estimates have remained fairly constant since a previous survey in 2006. Download a copy of the survey: Acrylamide in New Zealand food and updated exposure assessment (pdf 934 kb).

What is being done to reduce acrylamide levels in food?

International food regulators are working with industry to reduce acrylamide levels. New farming and processing techniques are being investigated to produce lower levels of acrylamide, for example, lowering cooking temperatures, using enzymes that reduce acrylamide formation and obtaining raw materials with lower reducing sugar levels. However, reducing acrylamide in some foods, such as coffee, is difficult without changing its taste.
We are also encouraging and supporting industry to use enzymes that reduce acrylamide formation and urging industry to adopt an “acrylamide toolbox” produced by Food and Drink Europe. A Codex working group is creating a Code of Practice for reducing acrylamide in food and FSANZ and MPI have contributed.

How can I eat less acrylamide?

  • Don’t store potatoes in the refrigerator or where exposed to light because this can increase the components that promote acrylamide formation.
  • Soak potatoes in water for 15-30 minutes, or blanch in boiling water before frying or roasting because this reduces
    the components that promote acrylamide formation.
  • Follow manufacturer’s cooking instructions – many of them have adjusted their instructions to reduce acrylamide levels in their foods.
  • Cook potato products such as oven fries, hash browns and roast potatoes in a moderate oven (180-190°C) to a light
    golden colour only. Deep fried chips should be cooked at a maximum of 175°C. Chunkier style chips are preferable.
  • Toast bread or other foods to the lightest colour acceptable to your taste, noting that the crust will have higher levels of
There are a number of ways you can eat less acrylamide such as following a balanced diet and varying how your food is cooked, for example boiling, steaming or microwaving.

More information


Following is an excerpt from the European Union Food Safety Authority;

Following a comprehensive review, EFSA has published its scientific opinion on acrylamide in food. Experts from EFSA’s Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM) have reconfirmed previous evaluations that acrylamide in food potentially increases the risk of developing cancer for consumers in all age groups. This conclusion has not changed since the draft opinion was made available for an open public consultation in July 2014.

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.

Since acrylamide is present in a wide range of everyday foods, this health concern applies to all consumers but children are the most exposed age group on a body weight basis. The most important food groups contributing to acrylamide exposure are fried potato products, coffee, biscuits, crackers, crisp bread and soft bread.

The Chair of the CONTAM Panel, Dr Diane Benford said: “The public consultation helped us to fine-tune the scientific opinion. In particular, we have further clarified our evaluation of studies on the effects of acrylamide in humans and our description of the main food sources of acrylamide for consumers. Also, recent studies that we became aware of during the public consultation phase have been integrated into the final scientific opinion.” (A report on the public consultation is available below.)

High temperature cooking

Acrylamide is a chemical that naturally forms in starchy food products during every-day high-temperature cooking (frying, baking, roasting and also industrial processing, at +120°C and low moisture). The main chemical process that causes this is known as the Maillard Reaction; it is the same reaction that ‘browns’ food and affects its taste. Acrylamide forms from sugars and amino acids (mainly one called asparagine) that are naturally present in many foods. Acrylamide also has many non-food industrial uses. It is also present in tobacco smoke.

Following ingestion, acrylamide is absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract, distributed to all organs and extensively metabolised. Glycidamide is one of the main metabolites resulting from this process and the most likely cause of the gene mutations and tumours seen in animal studies.

Besides cancer, the Panel also considered possible harmful effects of acrylamide on the nervous system, pre- and post-natal development and male reproduction. These effects were not considered to be a concern, based on current levels of dietary exposure.

Reducing dietary exposure to acrylamide

Although not the focus of EFSA’s risk assessment, the scientific opinion includes an overview of data and literature summarising how the choice of ingredients, the storage method and the temperature at which food is cooked can influence the amount of acrylamide in different food types and therefore the level of dietary exposure.

EFSA’s scientific advice will inform EU and national decision-makers when weighing up possible measures for further reducing consumer exposure to acrylamide in food. These may include, for example, advice on eating habits and home-cooking, or controls on commercial food production; however, EFSA plays no direct role in deciding such measures.

EFSA has prepared a non-technical (or ‘lay’) summary of its scientific opinion for ease of understanding and addresses additional aspects of this work in its Frequently Asked Questions on acrylamide in food.

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