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EFSA Finds Little Success in Lowering Acrylamide

A report published last week by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has found limited success in efforts to encourage voluntary food industry reductions of acrylamide in processed food products. The annual report followed the collection of three years' worth of data beginning in 2007, when the European Commission first started asking member states to monitor acrylamide levels in food.
Acrylamide is a chemical compound that forms naturally in foods, usually when browned from high temperature cooking such as frying or baking. Its presence in food has been on the scientific radar since a Swedish discovery in 2002, which attracted worldwide media and scientific attention due to acrylamide's established reputation as a carcinogen in industrial applications like water purification, packaging, and paper manufacturing.
In food, acrylamide forms whether the food is cooked at home or in a processing plant.
Concentrations of acrylamide in food are generally considered to be too low to threaten human health, though studies have shown that high dietary doses can induce cancer in lab rodents, and high exposure in industrial settings can lead to nerve damage in humans. The World Health Organization and numerous other groups have investigated the compound, while the European Chemical Agency includes it on its list of "substances of very high concern."
The new EFSA report found that out of 22 monitored high-acrylamide food products, three showed declining trends in acrylamide levels (crackers, infant biscuits, and gingerbread), while two products showed rising trends and the others made little to no change or lacked sufficient data.
The report went on to identify fried potatoes (including French fries), roasted coffee, and bread as the greatest sources of acrylamide in European adults. Beyond those, prune juice, canned black olives, and breakfast cereal have also proven to contain high concentrations of the compound, though not enough data exists to link any human illnesses or ill effects with the consumption of high-acrylamide foods.
Still, the European Commission has taken efforts to encourage voluntary reductions on the part of European food processors through the "Acrylamide Toolbox," a non-regulatory educational document produced by the European Confederation of the Food and Drink Industries (CIAA). The Toolbox details strategies and techniques for reducing acrylamide in various foods, such as frying potatoes at lower temperatures or making cereals from wheat with lower concentrations of the amino acid asparagine, one of the main reactants in the production of acrylamide.