What is acrylamide and why should you care?

13th December 2017

Acrylamide is a chemical substance formed when starchy foods such as potatoes and bread are cooked at a high temperature, above 120°C, for a long period of time.  

Which foods contain it?

High starch foods such as bread, roasted coffee beans, cooked potatoes and some cereal and wheat products have the highest levels of acrylamide which forms more readily during grilling, roasting, toasting, frying or baking.

Acrylamide has always been present in our food but in recent years studies on rats and mice have shown acrylamide to be a carcinogenic, interfering with the DNA of cells to form cancer. 

Cancer Research UK has said that human studies looking at acrylamide are inconclusive. However, the FSA is taking new measures to ensure that awareness is raised and processing methods adapted to reduce the production of this substance.

From April 2018 new legislation will come into force that describes practical measure based on best practice guidelines to reduce the production of acrylamide.

The British Hospitality Association (BHA), Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Foods Standard Scotland are working together to develop the guidance that will help foodservice business comply with the new regulation.

This isn’t new news, with the legal obligation for food businesses to reduce acrylamide first announced in February this year and the FSA warning of the possibility of cancer from chips and roast potatoes in January.

Kafoodle award-winning food management system for commercial kitchens - food safety acrylamide

Acrylamide forms when starchy foods are cooked at high temperatures for a long period of time

So what can you do to reduce the production of acrylamide?

Firstly, always store raw potatoes in a cool, dark place above 6°C to avoid the formation of free sugars that can increase the levels of acrylamide produced when cooked. Do not store raw potatoes in the fridge.

Always aim for a ‘golden yellow colour’ when frying, baking, toasting or roasting starchy foods and avoid where possible blackening.

BHA food safety advisor Lisa Ackerly said; “The BHA has been supporting businesses to continue to proactively and voluntarily put simple measures in place to reduce the amount of acrylamide in food and we are now leading the development of an industry guide, together with the FSA and other stakeholders”

“The guide will be available free of charge from early next year, in preparation for the April implementation date.”

Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers Chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “We are in dialogue with the FSA and other trade body partners to ensure that sector guidance is clear, realistic and imposes the minimum burden on eating and drinking out venues while safeguarding the identified health risks.”

“The report accompanying the announcement illustrates how the food industry, including eating out businesses across the Uk, has made great strides in improving food safety for consumers. Our members take this issue very seriously and the report states that the industry has already developed best practices in this area that helps safeguard consumers.”

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Further reading

More information on Acrylamide

Ethical, fairtrade and organic – what do they really mean?

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