> Limiting Acrylamide, Fast Food Chains Abide - The Food Safety Company Limiting Acrylamide, Fast Food Chains Abide - The Food Safety Company
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    Wednesday, 25 January 2017

    Limiting Acrylamide, Fast Food Chains Abide

    Acrylamide is the new buzzword in the food safety sector. While the chemical has likely always been present in burnt or well-done foods, it was only in 2002 that Swedish scientists discovered it. The carcinogenic chemical has been called “extremely hazardous,” as continued ingestion has been linked to cancer. It is found in starchy food that have been burned by frying, roasting, baking, grilling, or oven-cooking at high temperatures. The European commission caused a stir when it withdrew its limits on acrylamide, garnering the wrath of FoodDrinkEurope. In response, the European commission drafted a second law wherein appropriate acrylamide levels are outlined for high risk foods.

    When the news broke that browned toast and potatoes were linked to cancer a couple of days ago, it set out to make the entire country aware of the risk associated with these staple foods. At every possible instance, BBC Radio 4 announced the news and encouraged listeners to have lightly-toasted food. It seems that fast food chains are catching on to the trend; McDonald’s has introduced new controls on storage and cooking of potatoes. If potatoes are stored in a cold environment a process called cold sweetening occurs wherein more sugar is formed. As acrylamide is formed from the joining of sugars and asparagine (an amino acid), storing potatoes in cold temperatures can increase the amount of acrylamide formed during the cooking process.

    Skinny fries, one of McDonald’s most popular items in both the UK and US (interestingly, each region has its own recipe), are the most likely to have high amounts of acrylamide due to the small surface area. To combat the formation of the chemical, McDonald’s across the UK are starting to use potatoes with low starch contents. Additionally, the cooking temperature of fries has been lowered. In response to the news, McDonald’s came out with a statement: “Food safety is a top priority of ours and we have worked with national and European authorities and extensively with our supplies, taking into consideration a number of factors to mitigate its formation, including the careful selection of potato varieties, storage and processing conditions.”

    McDonald’s is not the only fast food chain catching on, KFC and Burger King were warned by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) about the acrylamide risk in their products.

    In conjunction with the FSA, the British Hospitality Association (BHA)  is working towards a best practice guide set to be published in the summer of 2017. The guide will be distributed to retail food establishments, manufacturers, and caterers. However, until that point, it has suggested that food be cooked to light colours, fried at lower temperatures for less time, and to blanch potatoes before preparing to remove starch. Potatoes should not be stored in the fridge.

    Food Safety Company predicted this change in the market: “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.”

    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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