New EU rules to reduce the levels of acrylamide in food come into force next week, December 11th.
Acrylamide is a contaminant generated when the sugar and amino acids in starchy foods transform during heating. The changes enhance the taste of the cooked food and will often give it a brownish colour.
The European Food Safety Authority has found that the substance “potentially increases the risk of developing cancer for consumers in all age groups”. Frying contributes most to consumer exposure.
Under the new regulations catering companies and manufacturers will need to undertake measures to reduce levels of acrylamide in some of the foods they serve. French fries, crisps, bread, biscuits, breakfast cereals and coffee are all included in the rules.
From April 11th 2018, businesses will need to be able demonstrate that they have identified potential sources of acrylamide in their business, and have put in place measures to ensure levels are kept as low as possible. Some products will be cooked at lower temperatures for longer, for example.
The British Hospitality Association, in collaboration with the Food Standards Agency, has been developing an industry guide to mitigating acrylamide, containing guidance and advice on how to reduce acrylamide.
In a statement, the BHA said: “It is important to appreciate that it is not possible to completely eliminate acrylamide from foods, but actions can be taken to try and ensure that acrylamide levels are as low as reasonably achievable (ALARA) and that is what is required by law, because acrylamide is considered to be a chemical hazard and legislation has been made to require businesses to mitigate levels in food.”
Research conducted by the FSA in 2016 showed that 13 of the 274 samples tested contained levels of acrylamide in excess of the European Commission’s indicative values. However, campaigners have said the values are not low enough.