The Campden & Chorleywood Food Research Association Group (CCFRA) has combined extraction and liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry (LC-MS) processes to separate and identify any potential acrylamide fragments in a sample, spokesperson Leighton Jones told BakeryAndSnacks.com. "The method is being used to support manufacturers in various ways," he said. "They can check whether acrylamide forms in their products and, if it does, can measure the levels." Acrylamide is a potential carcinogen that is created when starchy foods are baked, roasted, fried or toasted. It first hit the headlines in 2002, when scientists at the Swedish Food Administration reported unexpectedly high levels of acrylamide, found to cause cancer in laboratory rats, in carbohydrate-rich foods. The chemical is commonly found in bakery and snack products such as crisps, bread and breakfast cereals, sparking concern from industry and regulatory bodies alike. At the beginning of the CCFRA detection process, the food sample is mixed with a solvent, or dissolving fluid. A second solvent is then added to separate the fat, which forms an oily layer, Jones said. Once this stage is completed, the acrylamide is separated from the remaining extract using liquid chromatography, and fed into a mass spectrometer (MS). The MS breaks the fragment molecules into sub-structures or fragments, whose size depends on what molecule the fragment came from. These can then be compared to a database of patterns in order to spot if any acrylamide is in the mix, Jones explained. Overall, the detection stage takes less than half an hour to carry out, he claimed. "Manufacturers can then undertake processing trials where they change the process or the raw material, for example, to see if these changes can be used to reduce the level of acrylamide in the end product," he added. Since the Swedish Food Administration first reported the potentially harmful properties of acrylamide, scientists around the world have been working to amass data on its effect in foods. More than 200 research projects have been initiated around the world to find ingredient replacements for the chemical as well as investigations into its harmful effects. Last year, Novozymes launched Acrylaway, an asparaginase that converts free asparagine into an animo acid that does not form acrylamide, and researchers in China have suggested that bamboo and green leaf tea extracts could reduce the chemical in microwave-cooked food. In the EU, the Confederation of the Food and Drink Industries (CIAA) has released a series of 'Toolbox' guides advising manufacturers on how they can reduce acrylamide by up to 80 per cent. Recommendations include using steam during the final part of bakery processes.