Our Top Tips For Your Acrylamide Risk Assessment
The issue of acrylamide levels in food continues to attract media attention. The recent vote, by EU member states in favor of setting legal limits, is expected to put new legislation in place as soon as Spring 2018. This will pose a real challenge for the industry, with test results showing high levels of acrylamide in some branded & own label products, and exposure in the press.
Some retailers are now requiring an acrylamide risk assessment to be carried out by their suppliers. The formation of acrylamide in food can be complex with, in most cases, no single solution to reduce it.
What is acrylamide and what can it do?
Acrylamide is a chemical that forms in foods from a chemical reaction between the amino acid asparagine, and reducing sugars such as glucose and fructose. This is part of the Maillard reaction, which leads to colour, flavour, and aroma changes in cooked foods. Acrylamide formation usually occurs at elevated temperatures used when frying or baking (above 120 °C) and in low moisture conditions. Although acrylamide has also been identified in some fruit and vegetable products heated at lower temperatures or higher moisture conditions. Scientists agree acrylamide has the potential to cause cancer in humans, after laboratory tests show it can in animals, and reducing exposure is wise.
The main product types affected include
Potato based products such as chips and potato flakes
Cereal / grain based products such as bread
Coffee and roasted grains
Infant foods such as biscuits and cereals
As low as reasonably achievable has been a valid goal, however the introduction of legal levels significantly changes the situation & the potential consequences. For effective control, interventions may be required at various stages of the end-to-end supply chain.
Adele’s top tips for carrying out an acrylamide risk assessment:
- Understand your raw materials
For example the following points can have a significant combined impact on the levels of reducing sugars and hence the subsequent amount of acrylamide in potatoes.
- Potato varieties
- Optimizing potato maturity
- Careful handling of potatoes trimming potatoes with defects
- Avoiding exposure of potatoes to cold temperatures
- Managing storage conditions to control sprouting
- Monitoring reconditioning results
- Assessing reducing sugar levels in incoming potatoes
- Understand what’s happening in your process
- Understanding how and where acrylamide is formed during your process is key, and again not simple. Then identifying what, if any, measures can be put in place to reduce acrylamide levels.
For example in crisps, research show that the following factors may contribute to a reduction in acrylamide levels:
- Increasing peel removal
- Washing or soaking potato chips before frying
- Cutting thinner potato slices
- Decreasing frying temperatures
- Sorting by colour
A note of caution: Many of the factors that may help us reduce acrylamide may also have a significant impact on quality, so a robust and detailed risk assessment which considers all potential consequences of implementing changes to reduce acrylamide levels must be carried out.
Does your team need help with their acrylamide risk assessment?
Get in touch with us to find out how we can help your team with your acrylamide risk assessment or if you would require a bespoke short training session on this information.
Useful sources of information:
- Codex Code of Practice on the reduction of Acrylamide in Foods (CAC/RCP 67-2009)
- Toolbox 2013 from FoodDrinkEurope
- FDA Guidnace for Industry: Acrylamide in Foods
- Food Standards Agency Acrylamide Advice