Keep an eye on acrylamide levels in your Food and Beverage exports to Europe
If you are an Indian exporter of Food and Beverage products that need to be baked, fried, grilled, toasted or roasted and you are exporting to Europe, you must know that new regulations designed to reduce overall levels of acrylamide consumption have become applicable all over Europe. These regulations establish mitigation measures and benchmark levels for the reduction of the presence of acrylamide with the aim being to ensure that food businesses put in place steps to mitigate acrylamide formation.
For those unaware, acrylamide is a potentially toxic and potentially cancer-causing substance that can be naturally present in uncooked, raw foods in very small amounts but increase in quantity when starchy foods, such as potatoes and bread, are cooked at high temperatures (above 1200 Celsius). Acrylamide is not deliberately added to foods – it is a natural by-product of the cooking process and has always been present in our food. It is formed when water, sugar and amino acids combine, while cooking at high temperature, to create a food’s characteristic flavor, texture, colour and smell. This process is called Maillard reaction. Long cooking times and higher temperatures form more acrylamide than short cooking times and lower temperatures.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has estimated that US adults average 0.4 micrograms of dietary acrylamide intake per kilogram of body weight each day. For an adult weighing 150 pounds, this amount translates into approximately 27 micrograms of dietary acrylamide per day. According to a risk assessment of acrylamide in food report by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), acrylamide levels found in food have the potential to increase the risk of cancer for people of all ages and if acrylamide is present in diet, it could contribute to a person’s lifetime risk of developing cancer. Moreover, there is no way to determine a safe level of exposure for acrylamide to quantify the risk.
Acrylamide is found in wide range of foods including roasted potatoes and root vegetables, chips including French fries, crisps, toasted nuts & peanut butter, cakes, biscuits, cookies & crackers, some breads, prune juice, canned olives, some cereals, coffee and cocoa.
The likely health hazards due to formation of acrylamide have resulted in touch regulations in Europe. The Regulation sets out practical steps that can be incorporated into food safety management systems (FSMS) based on Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles for businesses producing food at greater risk of developing higher levels of acrylamide. The actions required vary depending on the size and nature of each business. However, the food business operators are required to put in place simple, practical steps to manage acrylamide within their food safety management systems.
• Be aware of acrylamide as a food safety hazard and have a general understanding of how acrylamide is formed in the food they produce.
• Take the necessary steps to mitigate acrylamide formation in the food they produce; adopting the relevant measures as part of their food safety management procedures.
• Larger manufacturing businesses should undertake representative sampling and analysis to monitor the levels of acrylamide in their products as part of their assessment of the mitigation measures.
• Keep appropriate records of the mitigation measures undertaken, together with sampling plans and results of any testing undertaken.
Even if you are not into food business, but wish to consume as less acrylamide at home as possible, you are advised to take following precautions while cooking.
• Aim for a golden yellow colour or lighter when frying, baking, toasting or roasting starchy foods.
• Follow the cooking instructions on the pack when cooking packaged foods like chips and roast potatoes.
• Make sure you don’t store raw potatoes in the fridge if you intend to cook them at high temperatures, such as by roasting or frying. This is because keeping raw potatoes in the fridge can lead to the formation of more free sugars in the potatoes which can increase overall acrylamide levels, especially if the potatoes are fried, roasted or baked. Raw potatoes should be stored in a dark, cool place at temperatures above 60 Celsius.