Acrylamide is a toxic chemical compound commonly used in industrial processessuch as manufacturing of paper, dyes, plastics, and in the treatment of drinking and wastewater.
Acrylamide in food was incidentally found in 2002 for the first time. It is now widely known that acrylamide naturally forms in food from sugars and amino acids that react upon high temperature cooking in the Maillard reaction.
Asparagine, a major amino acid in potatoes and cereals, is a crucial participant in the production of acrylamide by this pathway, and indeed acrylamide is abundant in starchy foods such as French fries, potato crisps, biscuits, coffee, soft bread, etc.
Acrylamide is genotoxic and carcinogenic
JECFA (2010) and EFSA (2010, 2015) stated that acrylamide is a human health concern since it can increase the risk of cancer for consumers in all age groups, with young people being the most exposed (CONTAM, 2015).
Food is the main source for human exposure to acrylamide. However, it seems more appropriate to say “overexposure” since the everyday food contains too much acrylamide (EFSA): this is quite easy to understand when considering that many foods contain sugars and amino acids that can potentially generate acrylamide and that most domestic and industrial cooking (frying, roasting, baking) actually rely on high temperatures.
In this regard, the European food and beverage industry FoodDrinkEurope and American FDA issued sector-specific Codes of practice to help food producers to reduce acrylamide in their products. Moreover, the British Food Standards Agency (FSA) has also launched the campaign “Go for gold” with cooking advice to final consumers to reduce acrylamide content in food.
At present, no binding limits to tackle acrylamide in food exist.
The European Commission established indicative values only in 2011 and they were further lowered in 2013 (Rec. 2013/647/EU) because no effective acrylamide reduction had occurred in the meantime (EFSA). However, being acrylamide genotoxic and carcinogenic, neither a tolerable daily intake (TDI) nor a safety dose in food can be established. Acrylamide should just be reduced to the lowest possible levels (ALARA As Low As Reasonably Achievable).
The European Union issued Commission Regulation no. 2017/2158 of 20 November 2017: it provides official “indicative values” for acrylamide in popular food products and thus forces companies to apply further mitigation measures.
Although the new Regulation establishes purely indicative values -having in any case an official nature-, the definition of legally binding limits will be the next step; therefore, food industries need to be ready to keep up with both evolving legislation and consumer needs.
Mérieux NutriSciences is key partner to Food Companies and supports them with dedicated solutions in terms of consulting and analytical services to detect acrylamide.
Mérieux NutriSciences testing services quantify acrylamide in food commodities by means of Liquid Chromatography (LC) coupled with triple quadrupole Mass Spectrometry (MS/MS) to ensure high performance.
Our method is precise, sensitive and very accurate with use of internal modified standards and careful evaluation of the food matrix effect.
Our method complies with limitations to come on acrylamide content in food and with recommended LoQ, as set by the European Commission.