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New Measures to Reduce Acrylamide in Food

Thursday, 23 November 2017

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) today welcomed new EU Regulations that aim to reduce consumer exposure to potentially harmful acrylamide in food products. Acrylamide is a chemical substance that naturally forms when frying, roasting or baking certain carbohydrate-rich foodstuffs at temperatures above 120°C. Food products which have been found to contain acrylamide include; French fries, potato crisps, crackers, breads, biscuits, cookies, rusks, cereal bars, scones, cornets, wafers, crumpets, gingerbread, breakfast cereals (excluding porridge), coffee and coffee substitutes.

The main health concern relates to acrylamide’s carcinogenic and genotoxic (DNA-damaging) potential. In an assessment carried out by the European Food Safety Authority in 2015, it concluded that current acrylamide levels which all age groups in the population are exposed to in their diet, do pose a concern with respect to carcinogenic effects.

According to Dr Pamela Byrne, Chief Executive, FSAI consumers should also be seeking to reduce acrylamide exposure when they are roasting, frying or baking food at home.

    “We urge consumers to be aware of some simple steps to avoid exposure. It is known that this chemical does not occur in boiled foods so consumers should consider boiling foods as part of maintaining an overall healthy balanced diet to reduce any risks. If consumers are frying, roasting, toasting or baking starchy foods then they should ensure to avoid burning and cook food to a light golden colour, whilst always following the cooking instructions on the label”.

 The FSAI states that research shows that more acrylamide is formed at higher temperatures and longer cooking times. Therefore, caterers should avoid over cooking fried, baked or grilled potato and cereal products. Consumers should also avoid eating partially burned food.

These new Regulations provide practical measures to reduce the incidence of acrylamide, as well as benchmark levels for food products so food businesses can assess the effectiveness of their actions. The mitigation measures, which take account of the different nature of food businesses, will apply from 11 April 2018 or depending on the nature of their operation, food businesses will have to apply the required measures from 11 April 2018.

The newly published Commission Regulation (EU) 2017/2158 of 20 November 2017 establishing mitigation measures and benchmark levels for the reduction of the presence of acrylamide in food seeks to reduce levels of acrylamide in food to protect consumer health through establishing mitigation measures and benchmark levels that should be implemented by food businesses in their food safety management strategies and procedures. This will be monitored and sampled by the HSE under service contract to the FSAI. The FSAI states that benchmark levels are set for a number of foodstuffs which act as an indicator for the effectiveness of a food business’ mitigation strategy and can prompt evaluation of measures being taken if high levels of acrylamide are found in their food. The mitigation measures focus mainly on areas such as; selection of ingredients, transportation and storage of ingredients and the final product, choice of recipes and cooking method, and information which should be recommended to consumers.