EU to monitor acrylamide reduction in processed foods
whether acrylamide levels are falling, serves to put
additional pressure on processors to reduce the chemical in their
In an official notice published yesterday, the Commission noted that industry had already taken extensive voluntary efforts since 2002 to reduce the levels of the potential carconigen in processed foods. Now the Commission wants to collect reliable data on acrylamide levels in food over at least a three-year time span across the bloc in order to get a clear picture of the levels of acrylamide in foodstuffs. The data will be collected on foods known to contain high acrylamide levels and that contribute significantly to the dietary intake of the whole population and of specific vulnerable groups, such as infants and young children. The Commission is recommending that regulators send in the results once a year to the European Food Safety Authority, which will compile the information into a database. "EFSA will then evaluate the results to assess the effectiveness of voluntary measures," EFSA stated. "The monitoring programme provided for by this recommendation may be adapted at any time if this is appropriate in view of the experiences gained, The Commission is asking member states to perform the surveys annually in 2007, 2008 and 2009. In 2005, EFSA endorsed a the risk assessment on acrylamide in food, which was carried out by the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Health Organisation. In that assessment the UN organisations concluded that the margins of exposure for average and high consumers were low for a compound that is genotoxic and carcinogenic and that this factor may indicate a human health concern. "Therefore, appropriate efforts to reduce acrylamide concentrations in foodstuffs should continue," the Commission stated. The chemical is a carcinogen that is created when starchy foods are baked, roasted, fried or toasted. It first hit the headlines in 2002, when scientists at the Swedish Food Administration first reported unexpectedly high levels of acrylamide in carbohydrate-rich foods. Previous studies have linked the chemical with cancer in laboratory rats. Since the Swedish discovery a global effort has been underway to amass data about the chemical. More than 200 research projects have been initiated around the world, and their findings coordinated by national governments, the EU and the United Nations. Since then the EU's food industry and the member states have investigated how acrylamide is formed. The EU food industry has also developed voluntary measures, such as the 'toolbox' approach, a document which provides guidance to help producers and processors identify ways to lower acrylamide. Reducing acrylamide in foods industry wide can only help improve the public perception about food safety, which has suffered in recent years. The Confederation of Food and Drink Industries of the EU (CIAA) is also working with the European Commission and regulators to find ways to reduce acrylamide.