October 17, 2018

FDA Issues Guidance for Acrylamide Reduction in Foods

The FDA has issued draft guidance for the food industry to help reduce levels of acrylamide in foods. Acrylamide is a chemical that forms in foods during high temperature cooking. Frying, roasting, broiling, and baking are the typical cooking modes that can cause this reaction. Acrylamide is characterized as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.”

French FriesAcrylamide is used for industrial purposes, and it is found in cigarette smoke. It also forms when foods containing amino acids and sugars are heated to temperatures above 248 degrees F. Asparagine, the amino acid, combines with sugars to form the chemical. Foods that form the most acrylamide include potato chips and French fries. Microwave cooking, boiling, and slow cooking methods are less likely to produce the chemical. Reducing cooking time, blanching potatoes before frying, and drying fried foods in a hot air oven after frying can reduce acrylamide levels.

Acrylamides increase the risk of several types of cancer in rodent models, but evidence from U.S. studies conducted on people is incomplete. A Danish study found that in women with higher levels of acrylamide bound to the hemoglobin in their blood, there was a significantly significant increase in the risk of estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer. A study in the Netherlands found a positive association between dietary acrylamide and the risk of renal cell cancer.

The EPA regulates acrylamide in drinking water, but there are no guidelines governing the presence of the chemical in food. The FDA draft guidance issued today is non-binding. It covers raw materials, processing practices, and ingredients affecting potato based foods, cereal based foods, and coffee, all “significant sources” of acrylamide exposure. Acrylamides form on the surface layer or crust in foods.

The best advice to limit acrylamide intake is to emphasize fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and milk products, lean meat, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts, and to eat a balanced and varied diet low in saturated fats, trans fats, sodium, and added sugars. Using your slow cooker and microwave to cook foods can also help. Acrylamide belongs to a group of chemicals that form advanced glycation end products (AGEs).

The guidance doesn’t specific any maximum recommended level or action level of acrylamide. Guidances describe FDA’s current thinking on a topic. To reduce acrylamide levels in potato products, for instance, FDA recommends selecting potatoes varieties low in reducing sugars, avoiding cold temperatures during harvest, transport, and delivery because potatoes produce more sugar when they are cold, and using treatments to reduce sugar levels.

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