Simply Safe Net
23rd January 2017

What Is Acrylamide?

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has launched a “Go for Gold” campaign to raise awareness of the consumption of acrylamide, a chemical which scientists say has the potential to cause cancer. STS Director Fiona Sinclair takes a look at acrylamide and what it means for food businesses:

“Acrylamide is a chemical which is produced naturally as a result of cooking starch-rich food at high temperatures such as frying, baking, roasting or grilling. Examples include potatoes (especially chipped or roasted), bread, toast, cakes, and biscuits.

“The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the UK’s Committee on Toxicity have identified acrylamide as a health concern saying high levels of consumption may contribute to the risk of serious health issues, including cancer.

“Acrylamide forms via a process called the Maillard reaction where naturally present water, sugar and amino acids combine to create colours, aromas and flavours. When food is browned acrylamide is also produced.

“The FSA is committed to ensuring the amount of acrylamide in food is as low as possible, and today launched a consumer information campaign aimed at helping people reduce the levels in their home. The campaign doesn’t advise to stop eating particular foods but rather follow some basic guidelines i.e. cook chips to a golden colour, toast bread to the lightest colour acceptable and follow manufacturer’s instructions for oven heating or frying foods.

“This guidance on acrylamide also applies to a wide variety of food businesses which also need to minimise levels in the food they produce and serve. Acrylamide should be considered as a chemical hazard in food businesses Food Safety Management Systems.

“Industry guides/codes of practice are being developed for the hospitality industry, and examples of simple practical controls include:

  • Purchase – choose potato varieties with lower starch levels and cooking oils which fry at lower temperatures
  • Storage – store potatoes above 6°C as sugar increases with lower temperatures, avoid bruising potatoes as this increases the starch content
  • Preparation – wash potatoes to reduce starch, parboil as this can reduce starch by as much as 50%, reduce surface area of product e.g. roast potatoes have less surface area than thin cut chips
  • Cooking – avoid frying until dark in colour, bake bread/biscuits to a light colour, consider lower temperature and longer cooking times, regularly change oil

“The best way to monitor levels is colour charts, which correlate acceptable values and levels of acrylamide.

“It would be burdensome and costly to require analysis and measurement of specific levels of acrylamide in food service, however local authorities will be embarking on sampling programmes. An EU regulation on reduction of the presence of acrylamide in food has been drafted and industry guides are currently under development.”

For more information, or to speak to a member of our food safety team, call 01252 728 300


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