Acrylamide, a contaminant shown to cause cancer in animals forms in the
high-temperature frying, roasting or baking of foods like potato chips and
fries, coffee, and pastries, sweet biscuits, breads, rolls and toast, and may be
a public health concern, according to two UN agencies.
Acrylamide, is formed when certain foods, rich in carbohydrates and low in
protein, are cooked at temperatures higher than 120 degrees Celsius, and the
Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) are
suggesting food preparation technologies that significantly lower the acrylamide
The neurotoxicity of acrylamide in humans is known from instances of high
occupational and accidental exposure when the contaminant is used in industrial
processes in the production of plastics and other materials. Studies in animals
have shown that it caused reproductive problems and cancer.
The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives and Contaminants
(JECFA), in looking at possible risks of acrylamide and five other food
contaminants, concluded that cancer was the most important toxic effect of
acrylamide and consumption of foods with it at current levels of occurrence may
be a public health concern.
There is still uncertainty about the mechanism of the toxicity of acrylamide,
assumptions used to compare the most relevant animal data to the human
situation, and extrapolation of the intake assessments.
The amount of acrylamide can vary considerably in the same foods depending on
factors such as cooking temperature and time. This makes it impossible to issue
recommendations on how much of any specific food containing the substance is
safe to eat.
The food industry is looking at ways to reduce acrylamide levels in various
foods.But the experts caution against major changes in food processing methods
before checks are done for nutritional quality and safety, including
microbiological contamination, and the possible formation of other undesirable
chemicals. Consumer acceptability also has to be considered.
This research reinforces general advice on healthy eating and consumers
should continue to eat balanced and varied diets, which include plenty of fruit