Orkla snaps up distribution deal for acrylamide-reducing yeast

By Niamh Michail

- Last updated on GMT

© Renaissance
© Renaissance

Related tags Food Cancer

Orkla Food Ingredients has inked a deal with Canada's Renaissance BioScience to exclusively produce and sell its patent-pending, acrylamide-reducing yeast Acrylow in Nordic and Baltic countries.

The ingredient will be rolled out in the third quarter of 2017.

Acrylow allows manufacturers to achieve acrylamide reductions of between 50 and 95 % depending on the dosage, process and application. 

Renaissance has conducted full-scale testing in applications with a high acrylamide content such as crisp bread, biscuits and­ cookies, and has done lab-scale testing in other food categories such as buns and toast bread.

Orkla, meanwhile, said it is currently in the process of testing Acrylow for light, heat and shelf stability but that initial results suggest roughly the same stability as standard dry yeast.

Acrylamide, a chemical contaminant that is known to increase the risk of cancer, forms naturally when starchy foods are fried or roasted and occurs both in home cooking and during industrial food processing.

Fried potatoes, coffee and coffee substitutes and cereal-based foods, such as biscuits, are the biggest contributors to Europeans’ intake.

Although derived from yeast, Acrylow does not act as a raising agent, and so must be used in conjunction with conventional yeast in formulations. It costs around six to nine times more than standard dry yeast.

Manufacturers can list it as yeast in their ingredient packs –  “a tried and trusted ingredient [that has a] ‘clean label’ advantage over competing products,”​ said senior vice president at Orkla Food Ingredients, Thore Svensson.

The company’s regional focus for the functional ingredient will be primarily Sweden, said Svensson, but its Nordic neighbours have also expressed interest in the product. "We also know of some interest from the rest of Europe with for instance England and Germany at the forefront,” ​he added.

Chief business development officer at Renaissance BioScience Dr. Cormac O’Cleirigh said the firm was pleased to have found a route to market in regions where the presence of acrylamide had the highest level of consumer awareness.

Maximum levels

Demand could also be given a boost if the European Commission goes ahead with plans to set maximum levels for the chemical contaminant.

At an exchange of views of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) in January this year, members heard that Commission plans to set maximum levels in ready-to-eat foods​ such as baby foods, crisps and breakfast cereals. Actual levels and the full list of affected foods will be decided later this year.

But Svensson told us the company did not support calls for maximum levels on the carcinogen.

“At Orkla we take the acrylamide issue seriously and are doing what we can to reduce the content of acrylamide in relevant products, and we believe this applies also to other food manufacturers. European food operators endorse the implementation of a legally binding Code of Practice with benchmark levels at the same level as the present indicative levels.

“We anticipate that this new legislation will be good base for a growing demand for acrylamide-lowering ingredients such as Acrylow mainly due to the ALARA (As Low As Reasonably Achievable) principle.”

“We think that both consumers, the public and the food business operators will benefit from a Code of Practice compared with maximum limits mainly due to the static nature of maximum levels.“

In 2015, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) conducted a scientific opinion on acrylamide​. It concluded consumers’ exposure to acrylamide based on current levels of dietary exposure “indicate a concern​”, although evidence from human studies that  exposure to acrylamide through food causes cancer was "limited and inconclusive​".

However, evidence from animal studies showed that acrylamide is genotoxic and causes cancer, said the same opinion.

Manufacturers currently have a toolbox of various best practice methods they use to reduce levels of the carcinogen, which include cooking at lower temperatures or washing, blanching and peeling potatoes as well as reducing storage time.

Svensson said it was difficult to compare the efficacy of these different methods with Acrylow, adding that a combination of methods would probably prove to be the best solution in most cases.

“However, we can say that we are not aware of other natural solutions that will achieve the same reductions – and do so with no adverse effects in terms of taste, smell or appearance of the final product,” ​he added.

Orkla’s confectionery and snacks division in Sweden recently announced plans to cut palm oil from 98%​ of its Nordic products to reduce the saturated fat content of its products.

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