Understanding Acrylamide; How will EU Legislation Affect the Food Industry?

The food industry’s battle against acrylamide will heat up this month when new legislation comes into effect. Under EU law, Food Business Operators will be expected to monitor and subsequently mitigate the levels of acrylamide in their products. This controversial decision has thrown the industry into panic as operators race to overhaul their processing methods.

Acrylamide is a natural by-product of the cooking process; it occurs when starch is overheated and consequently causes a reaction between amino acids and sugars. Foods most at risk of containing acrylamide are those with a high-starch content that are then fried, baked or roasted. Popular examples include; potatoes, bread, crisps, cakes, biscuits and cereals.

The dangers associated with acrylamide are well-documented, with most food scientists acknowledging it as a probable carcinogen. Last year, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) declared that the chemical “potentially increases the risk of developing cancer in consumers of all ages.” Similarly, the US Environmental Protection Agency deemed it an “extremely hazardous substance.”

While it isn’t possible to eradicate acrylamide entirely from food, steps can be taken to minimise its presence. To comply with new legislation, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) recommends that manufacturers educate themselves about the chemical’s formation. They must then review their processing methods and implement relevant measures to ensure acrylamide levels are as low as reasonably achievable. Moving forward, operators must keep a comprehensive record of the mitigation procedures undertaken to meet EU standards. Meanwhile, for domestic cooking, the agency suggests that consumers aim for a light golden colour when frying, baking, toasting or roasting starchy foods.

For more information about acrylamide, please visit; https://beta.food.gov.uk/safety-hygiene/acrylamide

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