Acrylamide has received a lot of attention in the media of late, following warnings from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and other official bodies concerning high levels of the potentially harmful substance in many popular foods such as potatoes and toast. The stance of official bodies is that the substance poses a significant risk even in low levels, and as such the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recently withdrew their recommended limits on acrylamide stating that they cannot release a safe daily intake because of the extreme risk in even small amounts. Now, another food has now been highlighted as a health risk due to the presence of acrylamide; in this case, worryingly, the offending foodstuffs are biscuits designed specifically for babies and toddlers.
According to a survey commissioned by the Changing Markets Foundation, approximately 10% of tested biscuits, each designed specifically for consumption by infants and young children in the UK, contain high levels of acrylamide. Forty-eight brands were tested during the survey, including many big brands such as Little Dish and Ella’s Kitchen.
Surprisingly, the highest levels of acrylamide were found in a sample of Little Dish biscuits for one-year-olds, which were found to contain a staggering concentration of 924.4 μg/kg; around five times higher than the European benchmark and thirty times higher than the lowest found concentrations.
Four additional samples of similar Little Dish products were found to exceed the recommended EU benchmark of 200μg/kg. Ella’s Kitchen performed better, with only one tested sample from the company coming close to the EU benchmark.
A similar survey conducted in France by Changing Markets and global consumer watchdog SomeOfUs found that only one tested brand breached limits in the country, that brand being food and drink giant Nestlé.
Nabil Berbour, senior campaigner at SumOfUs, had the following to say on the matter:
“While it is important not to burn your toast, the FSA seems to be shying away from taking a tougher stance on the food industry, where significant reductions of acrylamide are possible. We mustn’t forget that acrylamide exposure from home-cooked food is considered relatively small when compared with industrially or restaurant-prepared foods.”
Acrylamide in the food chain could prove to be a massive problem, albeit one that we have only recently become aware of. The race is now on for legislation and regulations to catch up with the facts.