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What is the risk to consumers of acrylamide in food?
Case ID : 00046

please describe Risk Assessment of Acrylamide in Food for consumers

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1st workshop Thailand
Last viewed : 14 April 2024 16:41
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Answer from expert #1
Below is the WHO advisory:

1. What is acrylamide?
Acrylamide is a chemical that is used to make polyacrylamide materials.
Polyacrylamide is used in the treatment of drinking-water and waste water where
it is used to remove particles and other impurities. It is also used to make
glues, paper and cosmetics. Polyacrylamide materials contain very small amounts
of acrylamide.

Acrylamide is also used in the construction of dam foundations and tunnels, and
appears to be produced in some foods prepared at high temperatures.

2. What is the problem?
Acrylamide is known to cause cancer in animals. Also, certain doses of
acrylamide are toxic to the nervous system of both animals and humans.

In April 2002 the Swedish National Food Authority reported the presence of
elevated levels of acrylamide in certain types of food processed at high
temperatures. Since then, acrylamide has been found in a range of cooked and
heat-processed foods in other countries, including The Netherlands, Norway,
Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Previous concerns about acrylamide were focused on workers using acrylamide in
their jobs, and cigarette smoking.

3. How/why does acrylamide form when food is cooked at high temperatures?
There is currently little information about, and poor understanding of, how
acrylamide is formed in foods. It appears to be produced naturally in some foods
that have been cooked or processed at high temperature and the levels appear to
increase with the duration of heating. The highest levels found so far were in
starchy foods (potato and cereal products).

Further research is needed to explain why acrylamide forms in food as well as
the conditions that promote or reduce its presence in food.

4. What can be done to avoid acrylamide in food? Should I stop eating starchy
foods including potato chips/potato crisps?
We don't know exactly at what temperature acrylamide is formed in food. However
acrylamide has so far not been found in food prepared at temperatures below 120
degrees Celsius, including boiled foods.

Food should not be cooked excessively, i.e. for too long or at too high a
temperature. However, all food, especially meat and meat products, should be
cooked sufficiently to destroy food poisoning bacteria.

The information available on acrylamide so far reinforces general advice on
healthy eating, including moderating consumption of fried and fatty foods. There
is not enough evidence about the amounts of acrylamide in different types of
food to recommend avoiding any particular food product.

5. Are home-cooked foods safer than pre-cooked, packaged or processed foods?
Elevated levels of acrylamide have been found in home cooked foods, as well as
pre-cooked, packaged and processed foods.

Answer from expert #2
Acrylamide has been classified as a category 2 carcinogen (R45) and mutagen
(R46) by ECHA in 2009. A update of the reference values were performed by US EPA
(www.epa.gov/iris/subst/0286.htm). There a strong evidence from animal data,
whereas epidemiological data is not consistent - the problems is exposure

Acrylamide is ubiquitous in prepared food, so the compound cannot be banned
based upon the precautionary principle.

Different approaches could be used - ALARA or margin of exposure, ratio between
actual exposure and the reference. The size of this ratio is then a political
decision. The alternative is a risk assessment as proposed by Erik Dybing et al
using the T25 approach.

Different approaches has been taken to minimize the acrylamide level in
commercial food products by change in the production procees.
Concern right now is to obtain good exposure data.
For discussion of this issue see www.efsa.europe.eu