Acrylamide is a chemical that naturally forms when starchy food is baked, fried or roasted at above 120°C. It is a suspected carcinogen that has been linked to the development of cancer. Children are believed to be particularly susceptible to ill-effects because of their reduced body weight.
In 2010, the Joint Food and Agriculture Organisation and World Health Organisation Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) concluded that “acrylamide is a human health concern”.
Meanwhile, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) produced a 2014 report confirming evaluations that acrylamide in food potentially increases the risk of developing cancer for consumers across all age groups and, in 2015, EFSA concluded that acrylamide in food is a public health concern. In April 2018, European regulators introduced new requirements for food makers to limit the levels of acrylamide in food based on the As Low As Reasonably Achievable (ALARA) principle.
With European consumer organisations calling for more stringent regulations still, the need for the development of processes and ingredients that reduce acrylamide is clear. This is particularly true for products that are acrylamide ‘hotspots’, including baked foods like biscuits.
Kerry believes it has a solution. Through a licencing agreement with North American yeast developer Renaissance BioScience, the company officially launched Acryleast, an acrylamide-reducing yeast, onto the market in January of this year.
According to the company, Acryleast reduces acrylamide content by up to 93%. Because it does not act like a yeast – there is no fermentation – it has no impact on taste or texture.
At the same time, it is a clean label solution that can be listed on the ingredients label as ‘yeast’. “Acryleast is intended to be added for the reduction of acrylamide and not to provide a ‘yeast like function’. As such it is considered a processing aid and does not require labelling,” Mike Woulfe, VP business development for enzymes at Kerry, explained.
It does not require any change to current manufacturing processes and it is listed on the ingredient label as ‘yeast’.
Importantly for Kerry’s customers, Acryleast achieves these results without needing production processes to be modified, Woulfe told FoodNavigator.
“Many customers have initiated lab-scale and plant-scale trials with Acryleast and found it reduces acrylamide levels in many different food products without changing any manufacturing processes.”
The results of these tests have been positive, he continued.
"To date, in both lab and manufacturing plant-scale testing, Acryleast has delivered exceptional reductions in the production of acrylamide. Dosage and application methods vary between the different food products, achieving results that range from an 85% reduction in baby biscuits (lab) and 93% in crackers (plant).”
Indeed, Woulfe revealed, the ingredient is actually out-performing lab-based trials in tests on the manufacturing line. “We’re exceptionally pleased with the consistent and predictable performance of Acryleast in a wide variety of food products in many different industrial food manufacture settings. One observation is that plant-scale results are generally better than lab-scale tests of the same product. The takeaway from all of these applications is that Acryleast can be highly effective in many different products, most notably baby biscuits and snacks, digestive and morning biscuits, crackers, bread for toast and burger buns and crispbread.”
Pressure to reduce acrylamide: ‘Acryleast is that solution’
Good news for manufacturers of food for kids, in particular, who are facing mounting scrutiny from EU regulators, according to Woulfe. While the sector is currently governed by relatively flexible ALARA principle, the could change in the near-term, he predicted.
“Regulators in the European Union are currently very concerned about excessive levels in baby and children’s biscuits, cereals, crackers and toast and are talking about setting maximum allowable levels in the very near future. Children age 1 to 9 are a prime concern because due to their daily diet of cereals, toast, crackers and biscuits, they ingest each day more than twice as much acrylamide per pound of bodyweight as adults over 19.”
Kerry believes that there is a growing awareness among consumers over the risks of eating acrylamide, with organisations such as European consumer watchdog BEUC mounting awareness campaigns. “Since launching Acryleast we have seen a steady increase in engagement with customers over their concern of acrylamide reduction,” Woulfe observed.
Moreover, he suggested, increasing consumption of products not necessarily aimed specifically at young children means that manufacturers of every ilk have a ‘duty of care’ to address acrylamide, he suggested. “Families are moving away from feeding their children certain foods aimed at toddlers or young children in order to tackle childhood obesity due to concerns around the levels of sugars present in these foods such as rusks. Therefore, children are now being given foods not necessarily aimed at children. There is a duty of care to reduce acrylamide in all high-risk applications.”
“What’s needed is a non-GMO solution for use in the industrial food manufacturing setting that consistently reduces the amount of acrylamide without causing any significant changes in the production process. Acryleast is that solution.”
According to Kerry, Acryleast is the ‘only fully non-GMO acrylamide reducing solution available on the market’.
The company will be showcasing an acrylamide-reduced biscuit with reduced sugar, probiotic and yogurt filling for the first time at this year’s Food Ingredients Europe tradeshow.
The event, which is being staged from 3-5 December, will see 1500 innovative ingredients solutions from more than 1,700 exhibitors on display.