Acrylamide is present in baked, toasted and fried carbohydrate-based products such as French fries and crisps, but also cookies, baked snacks and bread products. Identified by the World Health Organisation as a Group 2A carcinogen or ‘probable’ cause of cancer, it is formed when sugars and the amino acid asparagine are heated over 121°C.
Functional Technologies’ proprietary yeast breaks asparagine down into safe compounds before cooking, and in initial tests using it in bread, the firm claims acrylamide reductions of approximately 90 per cent compared with standard baker’s yeast.
European yeast producers interested
Don M. Lay, Functional Technologies VP, communications and corporate development, told FoodNavigator.com that, with the firm seeking commercial partners on a per sector basis due to different production requirements, there had been strong EU interest in the yeast.
He said: “We have had substantial interest from both European yeast producers as well as European food companies that are interested in end products or testing potential solutions. We are now just commencing trials with a large UK baking company.”
“Bread is the obvious starting point as it [yeast] is an existing ingredient but also because yeast producers are responding to existing bakery and bread-making clients.”
Lay added that frozen potatoes (which account for over half the world’s 315m tonne potato yield) are another potential mass market, with talks ongoing between Functional Technologies and a “leading manufacturer” in this sector.
“Potatoes are something we are actively working on with a large potato producer at the moment to develop a solution that works for that marketplace. Two of the other markets that we see potential opportunities are cookies and baked snacks.”
That said, the market for ‘acrylamide killers’ is not a new one. Both DSM and Novozymes, for instance, have both developed enzymes to reduce asparagine levels, and while Functional Technologies claims its product beats rivals by working across a wider pH range and at lower temperatures, what else marks it out from the competition?
Said Lay:“Our product take a totally different approach by using yeast to consume asparagine. Yeast is well-known cost-effective ingredient that offers much promise, in a wide variety of applications.
“Enzymes may have a role to play as well as this is a very new marketplace. Over time the marketplace will decide which applications are best suited to the alternative treatments.”
Functional Technologies is aiming to partner at least one global food ingredient producer, as well as forge “strategic partnerships” to accelerate commercialisation of the yeast, and ceo Howard Louie is optimistic about the future:
“The potential of an existing baking processing ingredient solving this serious health concern…has been a strong driver in opening partnership opportunities for the company.”
Other acrylamide-reducing methods include changing pH levels, cutting heating temperatures and times, converting asparargine to aspartate via enzymic reactions, adding amino acids and developing cereal crops with lower asparagine levels.