both snack and bakery need to carefully monitor the issue of acrylamide in food in light of conflicting health warnings about the possible effects of this substance, according to an international law firm.
Paul Bowden of the law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer warned this week: "The science has probably already reached a point where the clock is ticking for the industry. Defences to potential consumer litigation will be greatly assisted by clearly-documented efforts by the industry to follow the 'state of the art' in the science and at least consider appropriate precautionary responses."
In April last year, Swedish researchers at Stockholm University revealed what they described as 'alarming' levels of the chemical acrylamide - a possibly human carcinogen - in fried foods such as potato crisps and other products made from rice, flour, maize and potatoes.
In contrast, in January a joint study by researchers at the Karolinska in Sweden and Harvard University did not find any correlation between the high intake of acrylamide in food and cancer. However, other Swedish scientists have warned that it is too soon to conclude that acrylamide is harmless as the new study was based on a small test population.
"Pregnant women were recently advised by one group of researchers in Nuremberg to avoid crisps and chips because of their high acrylamide content. While other countries have not issued specific warnings to date, current indications are that quantitative limits on the permissible levels of acrylamide in prepared foodstuffs will eventually be introduced in Europe, either at an individual national level or EU-wide," continued Mr Bowden.
As a final warning, he added: "It is important that the food industry actively monitors developments and is engaged in dialogue with the relevant regulatory bodies across Europe. Where possible, companies should also commission their own in-house or independent studies of the issue."