Acrylamide limit ‘red tape’ premature, says FDF

By Oliver Nieburg

- Last updated on GMT

Suspect foods include household staples like bread, fried potatoes and coffee as well as potato crisps and biscuits.
Suspect foods include household staples like bread, fried potatoes and coffee as well as potato crisps and biscuits.

Related tags: Acrylamide levels, European commission, Cooking, European union, Fsa

The added bureaucracy of legal limits for acrylamide in foods is preventable as industry efforts to reduce levels have been sufficient, says the Food and Drink Federation (FDF).

Research over the last decade has found varying amounts of acrylamide in baked goods and coffee cooked at high temperatures, which could lead to an increased cancer risk in humans.

The industry has been working towards solutions while regulatory authorities, such as the UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA), have begun to assess acrylamide levels in food.

There are currently no legal control measures for acrylamide in foods in the EU and US.

Legal limits premature

Martin Turton, Biscuit, Cake, Chocolate and Confectionery sector group (BCCC - a division of the FDF) manager, told​ why the industry would not welcome legal limits.

“The need for regulation is not there. The industry is concerned at looking at the toolbox so regulation is not required”

FoodDrinkEurope released a toolbox​ shared with the Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA) or manufacturers detailing potential intervention steps to reduce acrylamide exposure.

Turton suggested these steps were adequate as the industry could self-regulate.

“The less red tape the better. The risk to public health at the levels found in food is still unclear.”

“However as a precautionary approach, manufacturers should aim to reduce levels based on the principle of ALARA (As Low As Reasonably Achievable).”

FSA investigation

The FSA is currently measuring acrylamide levels in carbohydrate rich foods cooked at high temperatures.

It is comparing levels against indicative values ​set by the European Commission to determine when a product is high in acrylamide.

These values vary depending on the product with cereal based foods aimed at babies having the lowest threshold.

Where levels are found to be high, FSA will assess the steps a manufacturer has taken to limit levels, including using FoodDrinkEurope’s toolbox.

“A lot of products conform in any case,”​ said Turton.

Reducing risk

Measures to reduce acrylamide levels vary depending on the type of food, said Turton. For example a dry product may require different methods to a wet product, he said.

“There is no silver bullet. However, there are some basic tools applicable to all foods”​ he added.

Products baked at the lower end of the colour specification can reduce acrylamide levels up to 20%, he said, which would be appropriate for all foods.

Some methods could lead to cost savings for manufacturers, while others, such as those requiring reformulation, could lead to considerable expense.

He said that manufacturers would need to conduct trials using the toolbox and see which prevention methods work best for them.

Many large companies are already doing this, he said, but small companies are some way behind.

The History

In 2002, the Swedish National Food Administration ​(NFA) discovered acrylamide in commonly consumed baked goods.

Over the last decade, authorities such as the FSA, the European Commission and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have looked at ways to reduce levels.

A study from the National Toxicology Programme ​(NTP) in the US last year added to the growing body of evidence that acrylamide is a human carcinogen.

Related topics: Regulation & Safety, Ingredients

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