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Acrylamide

What is acrylamide?
Acrylamide is a chemical that naturally forms in starchy foods when they are cooked at high temperatures, for example, roasting, frying and baking. The browner the food is after cooking, the higher the level of acrylamide present.

What foods are of most concern for acrylamide?
The most important food groups are fried potato products, like chips, crisps, roast potatoes and other roasted root vegetables, bread, coffee, biscuits and crackers. Once again, the browner the food is after cooking the more acrylamide will be present.

Why is the presence of acrylamide a problem?
Studies carried out over the years on the effects of acrylamide in food have shown that acrylamide potentially increases the risk of developing cancer for consumers of all age groups.

Is acrylamide a problem in Ireland?
The FSAI carried out a total diet study to look at the exposure of the Irish population to certain chemicals, including acrylamide. Whilst we found the intake of acrylamide in Ireland is low, as in other EU Member States it needs to be further reduced.

Is anything being done to reduce the levels of acrylamide in foods?
New legislation (Regulation (EU) 2017/2158) setting out reduction measures and benchmark levels for acrylamide in certain foods will apply from the 11 April 2018. Food businesses involved in the production or marketing of the following foods must comply with the requirements set out in the legislation:

  • french fries, other cut (deep fried) products and sliced potato crisps from fresh potatoes
  • potato crisps, snacks, crackers and other potato products from potato dough
  • bread
  • breakfast cereals (excluding porridge)
  • fine bakery wares (cookies, biscuits, rusks, cereal bars, scones, cornets, wafers, crumpets and gingerbread, as well as crackers, crisp breads and bread substitutes
  • coffee (roast coffee and instant coffee)
  • coffee substitutes
  • baby food and processed cereal based baby foods intended for infants and young children (as defined in Regulation (EU) No. 609/2013)

What can I do to reduce the amount of acrylamide in my diet?
When cooking starchy foods at home you can reduce the amount of acrylamide in your diet by choosing cooking methods like boiling or steaming instead of frying or roasting. If you are frying, roasting or baking starchy foods then make sure to cook them to a light golden colour and not dark brown. Also only toast your bread to a light golden colour. Don’t store potatoes in the fridge if you intend to use them for roasting or frying as this can increase the amount of acrylamide formed during cooking.

In addition, you can reduce your dietary intake of acrylamide by ensuring you have a balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Further Information

EFSA information sheet on acrylamide


Last reviewed: 6/12/2017

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