> What is Acrylamide? Questions and Answers - The Food Safety Company What is Acrylamide? Questions and Answers - The Food Safety Company
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    Friday, 16 December 2016

    What is Acrylamide? Questions and Answers

    You may or may not have heard of the chemical contaminant acrylamide, and its unknown potential risks to human health. But it’s highly likely that you’ve consumed it at some point, if not often. So what exactly is this mystery substance, where does it come from, and what are the risks? These are just some of the questions that we’ll answer in this article.


    What is acrylamide?

    Acrylamide is a chemical that can form in various foods during high-temperature cooking processes such as frying, roasting, and baking. Acrylamide isn’t usually present in food until heating, but rather forms from sugars and one amino acid. It is, however, technically naturally occurring, and doesn’t come from an outside source such as food packaging or the environment.


    Is there a health risk from eating food containing acrylamide?

    Acrylamide has been shown to be carcinogenic in studies where animals have been exposed to very high doses. In 2010, the Joint Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) decided that the potential dangers were sufficient to label acrylamide as a human health concern. This means that more studies should be carried out and the results monitored going forward to determine whether acrylamide poses a serious human health risk.


    Is acrylamide a new chemical? When was it first detected?

    It is likely that acrylamide has always been present in cooked foods. However, the chemical was not detected in foods by scientists until 2002.


    How is acrylamide formed in food?

    Acrylamide forms from sugars and an amino acid (asparagine) during certain types of high-temperature cooking such as frying, roasting, or baking. Usually, boiling and steaming do not produce acrylamide. The chemical is more likely to accumulate when cooking is done for longer periods or at higher temperatures.


    What types of foods are susceptible to acrylamide formation?

    Acrylamide is found mainly in foods made from plants, like potato products, grain products, or coffee. It does not form, or does so at significantly lower levels, in dairy, fish, and meat products. Organic foods generally produce similar levels of acrylamide to non-organic, so that’s not a consideration if you’re looking to avoid it (although you should try and eat organic anyway, if possible).


    What are the FDA and other regulatory bodies doing about acrylamide?

    The FDA has begun many pursuits towards learning more about acrylamide since its discovery in 2002. These include toxicology research, analytical methodology development, food surveys, exposure assessments, formation and mitigation research, and guidance for industry.

    Regulatory bodies in other countries are also looking into potential risks, such as the UK’s FSA which has funded several research projects and surveys on acrylamide in order to further develop understanding of how it is formed and measures to reduce it.

    FDA data on acrylamide can be found here. The most recent data is from, 2006, however.


    Should I stop eating food that has been fried, roasted, or baked?

    Not at this point. The best advice for now is to continue eating a balanced, varied diet, with everything in moderation until any further evidence becomes clear.


    Is acrylamide found anywhere else?

    Yes, acrylamide is actually produced industrially for use in products such as plastics, grouts, water treatments, and cosmetics. Acrylamide is also found in cigarette smoke, which is not usually a good sign for a compound’s safety profile.


    Sam Franklin

    With a master’s in Literature, Sam inhales books and anything readable, spending his working hours reformulating the info he gathers into digestible articles. When not reading or writing, he likes to put his camera to work around the world, snapping street photography from Stockholm to Tokyo. Too much of this time spent in Japan teaching English has nurtured a weakness for sashimi, Japanese whisky, and robot cafés.
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