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What on Earth is Acrylamide and Why is it in my Food?

Center for the Global Food Value Chain Blog

I take my coffee with cream and my fries with ketchup. Recently, it was brought to my attention that both come with a helping of “acrylamide” as well. What on earth is acrylamide?

Here’s the skinny: Acrylamide is a chemical compound that forms in many processed foods and snacks during high-temperature cooking, like frying, baking and roasting. It’s found in products such as potato chips, French fries, bread, bakery items and coffee. And, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently conducting research to determine whether acrylamide in food is a potential risk to human health. So, until we know for sure, can it be reduced or eliminated from food?

Totally eliminating acrylamide from foods probably isn’t feasible. However, there are strategies that food scientists and producers may employ to help reduce the levels of acrylamide in foods at various points across the food supply chain. These include:

  • Selection of agricultural ingredients (agronomy) through picking specific varieties and/or raw materials
  • Modification of product formulations to consider amino acid composition and other properties of the minor ingredients
  • Adjustment of thermal input and moisture levels during processing
  • Modification to consumer preparation instructions

So, what does the future hold for acrylamide in food? The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 has increased the responsibility of the food industry to identify, understand,and take action to mitigate the hazards that may occur in their products.

Acrylamide could be a potential hazard. So should I review my products and processes to see if I need to consider managing the acrylamide levels in my production processes? It seems that with the new preventive controls looming on the horizon, perhaps a hazard analysis is in order.

Reference

FAO/WHO Consultation on the Health Implications of Acrylamide in Food Geneva.
Accessed 25-27 June 2002.

Faye Feldstein Faye Feldstein
Senior advisor
Deloitte Consulting LLP

 

 

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