Acrylamide, a chemical found in potato chips, french fries, coffee, and bread, was the centre of a worldwide health scare in 2002 after a European study found it was formed in some foods that were fried or baked at high temperatures.
Scientists, industry and regulator bodies have tried to find ways to reduce acrylamide from food without destroying taste and quality.
According to food science experts meeting this week at the Institute of Food Technologists annual meeting in Orlando, Florida, researchers now believe they can reduce or remove before cooking some of the compounds that help form acrylamide during baking or frying.
Their discussion was reported in a press release issued by the institute this week.Richard Stadler, head of quality management at Nestle, said for certain applications, the technique holds the promise of reducing the chemical formation.
Reducing acrylamide in coffee, on the other hand, has always been a challenge, he told conference participants.
Michael Pariza, director of the Food Research Institute at the University of Wisconsin, said there's yet been no single all-encompassing method found for reducing acrylamide while preserving quality. But he says the problem must be taken in context.
There are thousands of compounds in food that are potential carcinogenic, he said. But that doesn't mean they're dangerous.
"We need to keep this in perspective," Pariza said.
James Coughlin, a food toxicology expert from California, reported that a recent study in Germany of three men and three women given potato chips containing acrylamide found that more than half of the compound was excreted in their urine. Coughlin said the results were encouraging, but regulators don't care as much about the positive studies as they do about the negative ones.
"I think there's something wrong with that," Coughlin said.
The IFT meeting ends on 28 June.