New techniques added to acrylamide reduction handbook

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food

The food and drink industry has added more techniques to its
handbook advising processors on how to reduce acrylamide formation,
a bid to help smaller companies voluntarily reduce the potential
carcinogen in their products.

The additions to the Confederation of the Food and Drink Industries of the EU (CIAA) acrylamide 'Toolbox' include the results of new scientific work, additional methods applicable at industrial level, a way to predict the chemcial's formation, advice on glycidamide, ingredient selection, and regulatory compliance.

The CIAA acrylamide 'Toolbox' guide accumulates the growing body of methods being put in practice by the larger companies, along with scientific discoveries.

The voluntary effort is an attempt to ward off regulation in the face of a growing body of evidence that the chemical is carcinogenic.

The handbook is targeted at the EU's small and medium sized companies, which may not have the necessary resources to adequately research methods developed by their larger competitors.

Acrylamide hit the headlines in 2002 when scientists at the Swedish Food Administration first reported unexpectedly high levels of the potential carcinogen in carbohydrate-rich foods cooked at high temperatures.

Until then acrylamide was known only as a highly reactive industrial chemical, present also at low levels for example in tobacco smoke.

Since the Swedish discovery a global effort has been underway to amass data about this chemical.

More than 200 research projects have been initiated around the world, and their findings co-ordinated by national governments, the EU and the United Nations.

Various studies indicate that the chemical causes cancer in rats,.

Toxicological data suggested that this substance might be - directly or indirectly - carcinogenic also for humans.

The news, and surrounding controversy over the chemical, jolted the EU's food industry into tackling the issue by looking at ways processing can reduce the levels of acrylamide.

"The Acrylamide Toolbox continues to provide tangible solutions and methods that help companies in their ongoing efforts to reduce acrylamide formation," stated Richard Stadler, chairman of the CIAA process contaminants group.

"Food and drink manufacturers together with academics and scientists work together closely and effectively to ensure that the foods we consume are safe."

One addition to the guide includes a secion on gycidamide formation in food, citing recent findings of very low amounts of glycidamide formed via fatty acid hydroperoxides.

Glycidamide is the genotoxic metabolite of acrylamide.

The guide cites research indicating that the epoxidation of acrylamide by fatty acid hydroperoxides - formed during lipid peroxidation - could be another pathway for the interactions of acrylamide with food constituents.

"Based on this preliminary work, the potential burden of glycidamide via food appears negligible," the CIAA stated citing research presented in August 2007.

The handbook also notes the developmenty by scientists at the University of Leeds of a kinetic model to predict acrylamide formation under different processing conditions.

The model will be used as an "industry toolkit" to mitigate acrylamide in foods such as cereal based products and potatoes, and would be integrated into the handbook once validation work has been completed, the CIAA stated.

Processors would then be able to use the model to adjust their processors according to the predictive method.

The handbook has also be reorganised to more clearly discern processing methods tested at laboratory or pilot scale and those that have been assessed in industrial trials.

To avoid confusion, a separate table has been included that lists only those tools that were found by manufacturers to work in their industrial settings and may be applied either singly or in combination to mitigate acrylamide in commercial products, the CIAA stated.

A new sub-section on regulatory compliance lists new potential ingredients or processing aids that need to undergo regulatory approval first.

The sub section includes any health and safety considerations associated with proposed methods.

A separate section also analyses risks and benefits of various methods, and provides links to recent publications assessing such methods.

Other key changes include a link to new research published this month by the EU-funded Heat-generated Food Toxicants (Heatox) project.

In a final report issued last week, the Heatox project collected additional advice for those manufacturing potato, cereal and coffee products.

The EU three-year project was launched to fill in the gaps on the formation of acrylamide in cooked foods and provide advice to industry.

The team found toxicological evidence suggesting that acrylamide in food may cause cancer, Hetox reported.

"Their findings also suggest that there are ways to decrease exposure to acrylamide, but not to eliminate it," the report stated.

"Laboratory experiments succeeded in reducing acrylamide levels in bread and potatoes by adjusting the oil to potato ratio in semi-industrial fryers or minimising long yeast fermentation."

Research on mitigation methods need to be continued and the applicability in real food production need to be tested by industries, they concluded.

They calculated that successful application of all presently known methods would reduce the acrylamide intake by 40 per cent at the very most.

The Heatox project also found that acrylamide is not the only genotoxic compound that forms when food is heated.

The scientific team has created a database of about 800 heat-induced compounds, of which they say 52 are potential carcinogens based on their chemical structure.

"Other compounds formed during cooking of food, for example HMF, Furan, and a variety of Maillard reactants and lipid oxidation products may also constitute an increased cancer risk for consumers," they stated.

Future research should focus on these compounds, the researchers advised in the report.

A wide range of cooked foods - prepared industrially, in catering, or at home - contain acrylamide at levels between a few parts per billion (ppb) to over 1000 ppb.

The foods include bread,fried potatoes and coffee as well as specialty products like potato crisps, biscuits, crisp bread, and a range of other heat-processed products.

Acrylamide appears to form during processing as a result of a reaction between specific amino acids, including asparagine, and sugars found in foods reaching high temperatures during cooking processes.

The process is known as the Maillard reaction.

This occurs at temperatures above 100°C (212°F).

The updated guide can be found at: http://www.ciaa.eu/pages_en/documents/brochure_detailed.asp?brochure_id=41.

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