> Restaurants Face Fines for Overdone Starches - The Food Safety Company Restaurants Face Fines for Overdone Starches - The Food Safety Company
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    Thursday, 26 January 2017

    Restaurants Face Fines for Overdone Starches

    As it has been prevalently featured in the news for the past month or so, acrylamide is the newest cancer-causing chemical that the public has become aware of. The carcinogenic chemical was discovered over a decade ago by Swedish scientists, but has recently been thrust into the spotlight, and, as to be expected, people are reacting. First, the BBC made it their mission to alert the entirety of the UK to the presence of acrylamide in well-cooked potatoes and toast. Earlier this week, the FSA launched a campaign called Go for Gold to educate families about the risk of acrylamide. The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR), a network of retail and industry suppliers, compiled a brief using information in the Go for Gold campaign, distributing it to members. Most recently, fast food chains are taking preventative measures against the chemical by altering the cooking and storage procedures for starchy foods. Big-names are making changes, namely McDonald’s, while others have been formally warned by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and will likely follow suit.

    So, what’s next?

    The European Union have passed a new food hygiene directive that will be adopted by the UK in the coming year. Following the directive, every food outlet in the country will be told to take steps towards limiting acrylamide in food. Food purveyors who fail to make an effort will face mandatory enforcement or fines.

    To aid with this drastic change, kitchens are set to be offered tips on how to reduce acrylamide levels in food. The FSA and British Hospitality Association (BHA) are jointly “working towards a best practice guide set to be published by the summer of 2017.”  Called the BHA Catering Industry Guide to Acrylamide Reduction, it will have a colour chart displaying various shades from yellow and brown, allowing for colour-matching with cooked foods. Tips encourage food purveyors to buy low-starch potatoes and blanch potatoes (and chips) before cooking as doing so reduces the amount of starch. Additionally, as acrylamide has more time to form if cooked at high temperatures or for long periods of time, the guide instructs kitchens to adjust their cooking methods.

    An FSA enforcement team will be responsible for monitoring kitchens’ efforts to limit the carcinogenic chemical. Dr Lisa Ackerly, food safety adviser at the BHA, told Daily Telegraph, “Everyone is in the same boat and all restaurants need to reduce acrylamide.”

    Though the ALMR released a brief detailing FSA information, its chief executive Kate Nicholls doesn’t appear overly-concerned for the food retailers: “Provisions for hospitality venues have been in place for some time now regarding burnt food and most venues will be briefed and aware of any risks.”

    Scientists believe that this knee-jerk reaction, imposing on restaurants and the like, to be a bit much. There is no concrete evidence that acrylamide causes cancer in humans. The study displaying the carcinogenic nature of the chemical was conducted on mice. To date, no studies have been done to show that acrylamide has the same effect on humans.  Sir David Spiegelhalter, professor of the public understanding of risk at Cambridge University, commented on FSA’s Go for Gold campaign, “I’m always ambivalent about public health campaigns that are not based on some pretty firm quantitative evidence.”

    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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