> EU Limits on Acrylamide Chemical Waning - The Food Safety Company EU Limits on Acrylamide Chemical Waning - The Food Safety Company
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    Friday, 25 November 2016

    EU Limits on Acrylamide Chemical Waning

    The European commission has recently withdrawn limits on Acrylamide, a naturally-occurring chemical in food that has been linked to cancer.

    Acrylamide is produced when a starchy food has been burned by frying, roasting, baking, grilling, or oven-cooking at high temperatures. It can be found in potato chips (crisps), breakfast cereals, instant coffee, cookies (biscuits), rusks, and baby food. Considered an “extremely hazardous substance” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, it recommends zero as the amount safe for human consumption. Acrylamide is a genotoxic carcinogen which has the potential to cause cancer by interacting with genetic material. Many studies have examined its carcinogenic properties, but no solid evidence has been discovered (1, 2, 3, 4). The European Food Safety Authority (Efsa) says that acrylamide “potentially increases the risk of developing cancer in consumers of all ages,” stating that they cannot release a safe daily intake because of the extreme risk in even small amounts.

    A 2002 Swedish study alerted the world to the existence of acrylamide formed while baking or frying potato and cereal products. As these make up a large share of purchased food, the finding affects a large portion of the population. Since then, they have found that microwaved potatoes have higher acrylamide levels than chips. For reference, chips (crisps) contain 1,200 mcg/kg (micrograms per kilogram) according to TheGuardian. Vegetables heated to temperatures exceeding 48° F (120°C) produce high acrylamide levels: fried spinach has 112 mcg/kg while fried beetroot tops the charts with 890 mcg/kg.

    As more and more studies come forward showing heightened levels of the chemical in our foods, it will likely change industry practice, costs, and product tastes. What has, thus far, been a voluntary practice may become mandated by EU legislation. In fact, this year, EU regulation plans to amend a draft for public health protection produced in June. The regulation will demand that the food industry “provide evidence of regular testing of their products to ensure that the application of the code of practice is effective in keeping acrylamide levels as low as reasonably achievable and at least below the indicative levels referred to in Annex 3.”

    Almost immediately after the official EU paper was released, it was criticised by FoodDrinkEurope. A leaked document, seen by The Guardian, shows FoodDrinkEurope claiming that “the terminology ‘at least below the indicative value’ could be interpreted as meaning that the indicative values are maximum limits.” Acting quickly, the second draft of the law excluded the phrase. To some, this shows “undue influence” in law-making on the part of the food industry. Spokesperson for Corporate Europe Observatory Martin Pigeon certainly believes it so, saying that the good intentions of the European commission were “annihilated” by industry pressure. In his opinion, “The European commission’s endemic practice of secretly sharing draft regulatory texts with relevant industry lobby groups months before they are publicly known is a permanent scandal which needs to stop.”

    His opinion is shared by Nusa Urbancic, campaign director for ChangingMarkets.org: “These leaked documents show that the industry is having an undue influence over the process and contents of this proposal. Their call for indicative values for different food groups clearly hasn’t worked so far, as acrylamide levels are as high as ever, according to Efsa data. Ambitious maximum limits are needed to protect consumers.”

    The EU regulation, when passed, will force the food industry to address acrylamide levels by outlining an appropriate measure in foods with high levels, namely chips (crisps), crackers, soft bread, breakfast cereals, cookies (biscuits), wafers, gingerbread, coffees, and baby food. Manufacturers who want to limit acrylamide in foods can do so by substituting different ingredients/additives, changing storage methods, or lowering the cooking temperature for food.

    On the consumer side of things, more than 150,000 people have signed a petition to set binding acrylamide limits. An adjoining social media campaign is in the works as well. 

    Jacqui Litvan

    Jacqui Litvan, wielding a bachelor's degree in English, strives to create a world of fantasy amidst the ever-changing landscape of military life. Attempting to become a writer, she fuels herself with coffee (working as a barista) and music (spending free time as a raver).
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