Nov 17

New strict codes of practice for mitigating acrylamide formation

In September 2016, the E.U. Commission presented an amended regulation proposal for acrylamide, based on feedback from the stakeholders’ consultation. The Regulation is proposed to be made under Article 4 of Regulation (EC) No. 852/2004 on the hygiene of foodstuffs, and it sets out a requirement for food business operators to take account of strict new codes of practice for reducing acrylamide formation, as part of their food safety management systems.

The E.U. Commission has recommended that member states should continue the collection of acrylamide monitoring data and as with previous surveys, send the data to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).  Given the increased spotlight on acrylamide in both the EU and globally, it is certain that regulatory authorities will continue to monitor acrylamide levels in food, to determine whether further action/regulation is needed.

Many types of savoury snack in white dishes

Acrylamide is a process contaminant, formed in numerous baked or fried carbohydrate-rich foods as a result of high temperature cooking at >120 °C (248 °F). It is formed from reducing sugars and the amino acid asparagine (a building block of proteins) as part of the Malliard reaction.

The vast majority of evidence from animal studies suggests that acrylamide and its metabolite glycidamide are genotoxic and carcinogenic i.e. they have the potential to damage DNA and cause cancer.  However, the majority of human studies have not yet shown direct correlation with cancer therefore it is classified as a possible carcinogen in Group 2A by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). The intake of large amounts of acrylamide may also cause neurotoxic and hormonal disorders. Based on the results of monitoring in the Member States from 2007–2011, the EU Commission has set ‘indicative values’ for acrylamide in various food products. The most recent indicative values are laid down in Commission Recommendation (EC) No. 647/2013. In June 2015, EFSA published its first full risk assessment of acrylamide in food. The report reconfirmed previous evaluations, that acrylamide in food can potentially increase the risk of developing cancer for consumers in all age groups.

WHO/JEFCA: In 2010, the Joint Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) concluded that acrylamide is a human health concern, suggested additional long-term studies and advised that exposure to acrylamide in food should be as low as reasonably practicable (ALARP).

CODEX: The Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) has developed a Code of Practice for the reduction of acrylamide in food to disseminate best practice to manufacturers.

USA: In 2016, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued guidance to help the food industry reduce the amount of acrylamide in certain foods, but these are recommendations, not regulations.

CHINA: The China National Centre for Food Safety Risk Assessment (CFSA), published a paper for the Dietary exposure of the Chinese population to acrylamide, confirming it is a potential health concern for consumers, and recommending efforts should be made to reduce acrylamide in Chinese food. The EFSA & CFSA are due to sign an agreement on food safety in November 2016 during the China International Food Safety & Quality Conference/Expo jointly organised by the EFSA and EU Commission.

In light of the increasing concern, and the potential for higher demand for acylamide analysis, LGC Standards have included a new sample, for the analysis of acrylamide in snacks, to the food chemistry proficiency testing scheme (QFCS). Find out more in our scheme documentation.

EFSA Panel on contaminants in the food chain (CONTAM), ‘Scientific Opinion on acrylamide in food’, EFSA Journal, 13(6):4104, 2015. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.2903/j.efsa.2015.4104/epdf, (accessed 17 October 2016)

EFSA, Acrylamide in food is a public health concern, 2015 https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/press/news/150604, (accessed 20 October 2016)

International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), ‘EPIC Study: The Acrylamide Working group’, http://epic.iarc.fr/research/acrylamide.php  (accessed 17 October 2016)
Zhou Ping Ping et al., ‘Dietary exposure of the Chinese population to Acrylamide’, Biomed Environ Sci, Vol. 26 (6), 2013, pp.421-429. Available from cfsa.net.cn, (accessed 20 October 2016)

By Savvas Xystouris, Technical/Development Manager, Proficiency Testing.

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