Health watchdog takes legal action against Kellogg, Weetabix, Walgreens and others for acrylamide in ‘Disney’ animal crackers

By Gill Hyslop contact

- Last updated on GMT

According to California law, just one ounce of acrylamide eaten daily requires a health warning on the product. Pic: ©iStock/Zerbor
According to California law, just one ounce of acrylamide eaten daily requires a health warning on the product. Pic: ©iStock/Zerbor

Related tags: Whole grain, Ginger, Biscuit

The Center for Environmental Health (CEH) has launched legal action against several US biscuit manufacturers and retailers for allegedly failing to warn consumers about the high levels of acrylamide (AA) in their products.

Testing commissioned by the US health watchdog found levels of AA, a probably carcinogen, were higher than the legal limits proposed by the California state in several brands of biscuits, including animal crackers sold in boxes featuring Disney Jungle Book characters.

Proposition 65 and other rulings

According to CEH, children who eat just one and a half boxes of these animal crackers a year would exceed the annual safety standard for AA exposure under California law.

California’s Proposition 65 says just one ounce (28.3 g) of AA eaten daily could be dangerous and has made it law that “clear and reasonable warning must be given by businesses before exposing individuals to chemicals,”​ which includes acrylamide.

However, in 2002, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization stated that the average human would have to consume 0.5 mg of AA per kilogram of body weight per day to have an adverse effect.

This is 500 times higher than the average dietary intake of the compound, which the FAO and WHO report is 1 000th​ of a milligram per kilogram of body weight per day.

In 2015, the European Food Safety Authority’s Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM) reconfirmed that acrylamide in food potentially increases the risk of developing cancer for consumers in all age groups, however, evidence from human studies is currently limited and inconclusive.

The CONTAM Panel also concluded that the current levels of dietary exposure to AA are not of concern.

Sugar and spice and … acrylamide

Charles Margulis, media director of CEH, told BakeryandSnacks there are many products that may contain AA, formed during baking, toasting, frying, roasting and broiling for browning foods.

It’s also been found that foods cooked to darker colors have higher AA levels.

“Our testing is ongoing,”​ he said.

Whole grain question

Nice! ‘whole grain’ Disney animal crackers stocked by Walgreens had the highest level of acrylamide out of 22 animal cracker brands tested, CEH claimed.

CEH contends health-conscious parents are more likely to choose the whole grain treat over white flour animal crackers, but are unaware the biscuits may contain high levels of the probable carcinogen.

None of the products carry warning labels.

CEH also tested ginger snap cookies and found eight brands contained high levels of the chemical.

 “It is certainly possible that other whole grain products have acrylamide problems,​” said Margulis.

No excuse

According to its website, the FDA’s guidance documents do not establish legally enforceable responsibilities but should be viewed only as recommendations.

Last year, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) issued recommendations to consumers for reducing their exposure to acrylamide in foods.

“The FDA also issued guidance for companies on reducing acrylamide in their products,”​ said Margulis.

“We expect companies can lower the levels by taking steps outlined in that document.”

Studies have shown that using different varieties of certain crops, changing temperatures of food storage and processing, and other food handling practices can lower levels of acrylamide in food.

Last month, CEH reached a legal agreement with Cornfields Inc, a US private label snack food maker, whereby the company agreed to significantly reduce the levels of acrylamide in its products.

“I’m not aware that other countries have similar warning label rules as California. The state’s scientists based their ruling on IARC and other cancer groups’ findings,”​ said Margulis.

Kellogg and Weetabix have yet to respond to a request for comment.

Products, manufacturers and retailers cited in the lawsuit

  • Nice! Disney Animal Crackers made with whole grains (Walgreens)
  • Stauffer’s Original Animal Crackers (Walmart)
  • Kirkland Signature Organic Animal Crackers (a CostCo store brand)
  • Gold Emblem Animal Crackers (a CVS store brand)
  • La Moderna Animalitos Galletas (Vallarta Stores)
  • Mi-Del Gluten Free Arrowroot Cookies (VitalCost.com)
  • Barbara’s (Weetabix) Snackimals Vanilla Cookies (Nugget Markets)
  • Pagasa Galletas de Animalitos Con Betun (Dollar Tree)
  • Hidden Garden Gluten Free Ginger Snaps with Butternut Squash (Sprouts Market)
  • Stauffer’s Ginger Snaps (Smart and Final)
  • First Street Brand Ginger Snaps (Smart and Final)
  • Market Pantry Gingersnaps (a Target store brand)
  • Signature Kitchens Ginger Snaps (an Albertsons store brand)
  • Mary’s Love Cookies Ginger Snaps (Safeway)
  • Pepperidge Farm Ginger Family Cookies (Pak’n Save Foods)
  • Nabisco Ginger Snaps (Safeway)

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2 comments

BAKERY CONSULTANT

Posted by JAMES GOMPF,

ACCORDING TO THE CALFORNIA LAW, THE PRODUCT MUST SHOW AN ACRYLAMIDE ANALYSIS OF "NONE DETECTED" IN THE BAKED FOOD SAMPLE.
THE LIMIT OF DETECTION OF THE ANALYTICAL METHODS FOR ACRYLAMIDE IS 10 ppb. THIS EQUATES TO 0.3 MICROGRAMS FOR A ONE OUNCE
SERVING WHICH IS ALREADY OVER THE 0.2 MICROGRAMS PER SERVING FOR IT TO BE "NO SIGNIFICANT RISK LEVEL (NSRL)". I DON'T SEE ANY WAY
TO BAKE A COOKIE OR CRACKER THAT HAS FAT AND SUGAR IN IT TO MEET THIS REQUIREMENT!

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Seeking an acrlylamide expert

Posted by Bart Simmons,

I am an independent consultant looking for an expert on the testing for acrylamide.

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