What is acrylamide and its relation to food and health?

What is acrylamide?


Acrylamide is a chemical that can form in some foods during high-temperature cooking processes, such as frying, roasting, and baking. Acrylamide in food, forms from sugars and an amino acid that are naturally present in food; it does not come from food packaging or the environment.

Is there a risk from eating foods that contain acrylamide?

Acrylamide caused cancer in animals in studies where animals were exposed to acrylamide at very high doses. In 2010, the Joint Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) concluded that acrylamide is a human health concern, and suggested additional long-term studies. FDA experts participated in the evaluation and provided data from new research studies on acrylamide risk.

Is acrylamide something new in food? When was acrylamide first detected in food?

Acrylamide has probably always been present in cooked foods. However, acrylamide was first detected in certain foods in April 2002.

How does acrylamide form in food?

Acrylamide forms from sugars and an amino acid (asparagine) during certain types of high-temperature cooking, such as frying, roasting, and baking.

What kinds of cooking lead to acrylamide formation? In what foods?

High-temperature cooking, such as frying, roasting, or baking, is most likely to cause acrylamide formation. Boiling and steaming do not typically form acrylamide. Acrylamide is found mainly in foods made from plants, such as potato products, grain products, or coffee. Acrylamide does not form, or forms at lower levels, in dairy, meat, and fish products. Generally, acrylamide is more likely to accumulate when cooking is done for longer periods or at higher temperatures.


Should we stop eating foods that are high in acrylamide?

The Agency does not advise people to stop eating any of these foods, but you should follow Department of Health advice from the NHS Choices website on eating a healthy, balanced diet. We also recommend that, when making chips at home, they are cooked to a light golden colour. Bread should be toasted to the lightest colour acceptable. However, manufacturers’ instructions for frying or oven-heating foods should be followed carefully.

Is acrylamide found anywhere else?

The chemiacl is produced industrially for use in products such as plastics, grouts, water treatment products, and cosmetics. Acrylamide is also found in cigarette smoke.

Why is acrylamide involved in the treatment of drinking water?

Polyacrylamide is used as a cleaning agent for drinking water. It combines with solid material, making it easier to filter and remove unwanted substances from the water. During this process, acrylamide is released when the polyacrylamide comes into contact with the water.

What’s being done internationally?

The Joint Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)/ World Health Organization (WHO) Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) concluded that levels of dietary exposure to the chemical indicate a human health concern and advised that its exposure should be as low as reasonably practicable (ALARP).
The Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) has developed a Code of Practice for the reduction of acrylamide in food to disseminate best practice to manufacturers.

What do we know about acrylamide and its health risks?

Although the chemical has caused nerve damage in people who have been exposed to very high levels as a result of occupational and accidental exposure through industrial use, it is less clear what the risks are from the acrylamide found in food. Acrylamide is considered to be a genotoxic carcinogen because it has the potential to cause cancer by interacting with the genetic material (DNA) in cells. Based on independent expert scientific advice, the Agency believes that exposure to such chemicals should be as low as reasonably practicable (ALARP).

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