How does the food industry need to respond to acrylamide legislation?

Food manufacturers are legally required to manage acrylamide levels within food safety systems. We work with them and research establishments to help meet best practice acrylamide management.

Acrylamide analysis and management

Although acrylamide is a naturally occurring organic compound, academic research has found links between levels of exposure through ingestion and a long-term increase in human cancer risk.

Acrylamide is produced as an outcome of cooking starch-rich foods at high temperatures – this includes oven-baking and frying. It’s also been detected in home-cooked, packaged and processed foods with levels varying widely depending on the manufacturing process, cooking time and temperature. It is commonly linked to toasted bread but occurs across a broad spectrum of food and drink products including potatoes, crisps, and coffee. Acrylamide is not something which has been added to food, it is a natural by-product of the cooking process, and has always been present in these types of foods. Additionally, Asparagine, which is a major amino acid in potatoes and cereals, has also been shown to have a far greater tendency to interact with sugars to produce acrylamide than other amino acids. 

EU regulations released April 2018, establish best practice, mitigation measures and benchmark levels for the reduction of the presence of acrylamide in food. Acrylamide is classified as a Group 2A carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and a Category 2 carcinogen and Category 2 mutagen by the EU.

Food business operators, such as bakers and large food manufacturers, are required by law to implement and execute simple practical steps within their food safety management systems to manage acrylamide levels. It is not possible to eliminate acrylamide from foods, but actions can be taken to try and ensure that acrylamide levels are as low as reasonably achievable. Businesses are expected to:

  • 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
  • Undertake representative sampling and analysis where appropriate, 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

RPS works with many food manufacturers, across the UK and overseas, as well as research and development establishments to help ensure that levels of acrylamide in food are at suitable levels for consumption.

We have recently refurbished our Bedford Laboratory, installing the latest equipment including the triple quadrupole mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS/MS), which is used for ultra-trace quantification of trace elements in a variety of challenging matrices. This ensures high levels of accuracy and minimal impact from delays on our local food industries.

We have recently developed a method for testing the asparagine content in foods, which can help food manufacturers assess both the reliability of their chosen mitigation steps, as well as the potential for acrylamide formation in the final product. This means we can provide data to our clients at both ends of the food manufacturing process.

We are UKAS accredited for acrylamide analysis and can also provide analysis of acrylamide precursors such as asparagine. We also take part in regular food performance testing to provide clients with the required quality assurance and peace of mind.

Malk Sahota

Business Development Manager - Analytical Services

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