Do you know the impact of Acrylamide?

* 3 min read
Acrylamide is a substance that forms naturally during elevated temperature cooking and processing, such processes include frying, roasting and baking. The Food Standards Agency comments: "Laboratory tests show that acrylamide in the diet causes cancer in animals. While evidence from human studies on the impact of acrylamide in the diet is inconclusive, scientists agree that acrylamide in food has the potential to cause cancer in humans as well and it would be prudent to reduce exposure."

A change in legislation that will apply from April this year will mean that food businesses in the United Kingdom will have to have regard to the amount of acrylamide that is present in food. Specifically, they will have to take steps to manage the level of acrylamide and have a safety management system present to do so.

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.

The legislation describes practical measures to be followed by industry in order to manage the level of acrylamide formation in certain prescribed foods. In addition, the Food Standards Agency, Food Standards Scotland and the British Hospitality Association in conjunction with key stakeholders are developing guidance that will assist catering and food service businesses to interpret the legislation. It is also understood that guidance will be developed for the enforcement community and this should be available early this year.

It is noted that this generation is more prevalent when dealing with potato or cereal based products. It is recognised that it is not possible to eliminate acrylamide totally but it can be managed down to reasonable levels. The above referenced legislation establishes best practice and sets out mitigation and bench marking protocols that should ensure low levels of acrylamide.

Certain expectations follow from the legislation; food businesses should be aware of how acrylamide forms within food preparation processes; necessary steps should be taken to mitigate such formation and there should be a food safety management procedure, echoing general due diligence provisions. In terms of monitoring the mitigation process, samples of relevant products should be taken within a structured sampling regime and records of outcomes and remedial actions recorded.

The products most associated with acrylamide formation, when cooked or processed at high temperatures, include; French fries and sliced potato crisps; potato crisps, snacks, crackers and other potato products made from potato dough; breakfast cereals with the exception of porridge; fine bakery wares including cookies, biscuits, rusks, cereal bars, scones, cornets, wafers, crumpets, gingerbread, crackers, crisp breads and bread substitutes; coffee and coffee substitutes and baby food including processed cereal-based food that is intended for infants and young children.

As mentioned above, the legislation includes reference to mitigation measures and these are set out in the annexes to the regulation. SBS Legal understands that these measures are based on knowledge gained from codes of practice and best practice over the years from relevant stakeholders. There is no great expectation that there will be a consequential improvement in food quality or properties.

The legislation also deals with benchmarking and the bench marking levels for each product type are presented in the Annex IV of the legislation. It is important to stress that the levels stated there are not maximum levels and are not intended to be used by the enforcement community, they are to enable the food business operator to gauge the success and the effectiveness of their mitigation.

Finally, as mentioned above, some guidance is available to assist. This is available at national and EU level and is based on good practice and previous codes of practice, of particular value is the ‘acrylamide tool box’ that is maintained by ‘Food and Drink Europe’.