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Swedes detect acrylamide in foods

10/2002, 25.04.2002

Critical substance evidently formed in production or preparation processes

The Swedish National Food Administration, NFA, has drawn attention to what up to now had been an unknown health risk. Using a new analytical method, Swedish scientists have detected what are, in some cases, high levels of acrylamide in foods.

Acrylamide is classified as a mutagenic and carcinogenic substance. It is not yet clear how this substance reached the foods. The study results so far indicate that it is formed when starch-containing foods are heated during production or preparation. No data on the acrylamide contamination of foods on sale on the German market are available at present. Risk-reducing measures must be based on the exact identification of the sources and aim to prevent the formation of acrylamide.

Foods examined in Sweden in which acrylamide was detected contained starch and had been fried, oven-baked or deep-fried. No acrylamide was found in boiled foods. BgVV calls on the manufacturers of potentially contaminated foods to re-examine their methods from the angle of the formation of acrylamides and, if necessary, to change them. In the near future, BgVV will be staging an expert meeting on this problem and inform the general public of the results. On the European level the European Commission will address this issue.

Acrylamide, a monomer, is a "building block" for plastics. It may, therefore, be contained in food packaging. According to the Commodities Regulation the migration of acrylamide to foods must not be detectable (at a detection limit of the analytical method of 0.01mg/kg) in order to protect the consumer from the possible risks associated with the migration of acrylamide from the packaging to the food.

In order to undertake an extensive evaluation of the risk identified in the Swedish study findings, careful examination of the data and a scientifically validated risk assessment will be necessary.

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