Acrylamide & what you need to know
From the 11th April this year all food business operators in the UK have to abide by the European Commission Regulation (EU) 2017/2158 which covers Acrylamide.
We will explain briefly;
- What is Acryamide
- Why should you be aware of it and how it affects food safety
- What you can do to reduce acrylamide in your business
- What do you need to do to comply with the new regulations
More detail about this subject will soon be found in our knowledge hub on this website.
What is acrylamide?
Acrylamide is a chemical formed when foods containing starch, such as potatoes and bread, are cooked at temperatures above 120°C. It can be formed when foods are:
Acrylamide is naturally present in foods & is a natural by-product of the cooking process.It is found in a range of foods including
- roasted potatoes and root vegetables
Why should you be aware of it
Acrylamide has the potential to cause harm to health. Laboratory tests have shown that acrylamide in the diet can cause cancer in animals. There is widespread agreement among scientists working in this field that acrylamide in food has the potential to cause cancer in humans as well. It is recommended that the amount of acrylamide we all consume is reduced, as a precaution.
What you can do to reduce acrylamide in the food you produce
The food manufacturing industry has been doing a great deal of work to identify and implement measures to reduce acrylamide levels in food, including developing ways to limit acrylamide formation in many different foods and processes. The new legislation will require food business operators to put in place practical, simple processes to manage acrylamide within their food systems.
In practical terms what you can do to reduce acrylamide
- aim for a golden yellow colour or lighter when frying, baking, toasting or roasting starchy foods. Acrylamide production is dramatically increased when starchy foods are overcooked.
- follow the manufacturer’s cooking instructions on the pack when cooking packaged foods such as chips and roast potatoes
- don’t store raw potatoes in the fridge if you intend to cook them at high temperatures, such as by roasting or frying. Keeping raw potatoes in the fridge can lead to the formation of free sugars in the potatoes.This process is sometimes called ‘cold sweetening’. This process can increase acrylamide levels, especially if the potatoes are then fried, roasted or baked. Storage of raw potatoes should be in a dark, cool place at temperatures above 6°C.
Acrylamide is formed during high temperature cooking. The process is called the Maillard reaction. Water, sugar and amino acids combine to create a food's characteristic flavour, texture, colour and smell. More acrylamide is formed during long cooking times and higher temperatures, than short cooking times and lower temperatures.
What do you need to do to comply with the new regulations
The new regulation (2017/2158) establishes best practice, measures and benchmark levels for the reduction of acrylamide in food. Businesses will be expected to do the following, which will be checked by environmental health officers on inspections.
- be aware of acrylamide as a food safety hazard and have a general understanding of how acrylamide is formed in the food they produce;
- take the necessary steps to reduce acrylamide formation in the food they produce - adopting the measures as part of their food safety management procedures. In larger producers, undertake representative sampling and analysis where appropriate,
- monitor the levels of acrylamide in their products as part of their assessment of the mitigation measures, keeping appropriate records of the mitigation measures undertaken, together with sampling plans and results of any testing. For a small restaurant this may be just including a regular check on fried product & making a note in the food safety documentation.
- They may follow a system of sampling for the detection & measurement of acrylamide levels.
To ensure that small and micro-businesses are not burdened, measures will be proportionate. To see the businesses and foodstuffs that are affected & more information on the legislation see the knowledge hub article in Foodsafetyuk.com. This will be available to view soon.
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