Acrylamide expertise

Acrylamide formation in food processing is recognised by the industry as a difficult problem to resolve. The recent introduction of regulation to control levels of acrylamide in our food has led to industry partners working with scientists in order to reduce our exposure to these chemicals. Curtis Analytics is a company with expertise in Acrylamide formation. We aim to help food producers and private individuals to reduce the levels of Acrylamide in their products and food as low as reasonably achievable and comply with the regulations through testing services and acrylamide research.

Acrylamide

Glycidamide

What is Acrylamide and why is it dangerous?

Acrylamide is a toxic chemical that forms in starchy foods like bread and crisps during cooking, and can be found in products made from wheat, potatoes, rye, oats and coffee. Acrylamide is classed as a probable carcinogen (cancer-causing agent) by IARC as a Group 2A probable carcinogen in humans (World health Organisation (WHO), it is neurotoxic (damaging to the brain and nerve tissues) and has also been linked to male infertility. In humans, studies have suggested a link between acrylamide and the incidence of pancreatic cancer, Hodgkin’s disease, and cancers of the brain and central nervous system (Friedman, 2003, Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 51, 4504-4526). Acrylamide is converted in the body to form a substance called glycidamide, which itself is believed to be a major carcinogen.

 

 

Further evidence for toxicity

The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified acrylamide and N-methyloacrylamide as “probably carcinogenic to humans” (International Agency for Research On Cancer, 1994). Studies in mice have shown that acrylamide could increase the incidence of cancers in the brain and central nervous system, the thyroid and other endocrine glands and reproductive organs (Bousquet and Ettner, 1996). Several lifetime oncogenicity studies in rats have shown that acrylamide increased the incidence of tumours in several organs, especially at higher doses (male dose 0 – 2 mg/kg/day and female dose 0 – 3 mg/kg/day) (Friedman et al., 1995). 

The biological effects of acrylamide (C3H5NO, Figure 2) and its reactive epoxide metabolite, glycidamide (C3H5NO2, Figure 1) have been studied in vivo and include biological alkylation of proteins such as haemoglobin and enzymes, as well as DNA (Friedman, 2003a, Tareke et al., 2002, Tareke et al., 2000).

Curtis Analytics
Lab 229 / Office 230
Rothamstead Enterprises
Daniel Hall Building
Harpenden
AL5 2JQ

01582 320980

 
 

Solution for industrial partners

Solution for private clients

Research

The main objective of Curtis Analytics is to help companies and private clients to reduce the levels of acrylamide in their products. In order to achieve this, we are conducting ground-breaking and vital research into mitigation strategies and testing procedures. Our research projects are funded both publicly (through innovate UK) and privately.

Projects: ASNInstaTest

Acrylamide is a toxic chemical that forms in starchy food products (made from wheat, rye, potatoes and oats) and in coffee during high temperature cooking, including baking, frying and industrial processing. Acrylamide is the subject of a recent publication (2017), namely the EU COMMISSION REGULATION (EU 2017/2158), that establishes mitigation measures and benchmark levels for the reduction of acrylamide in food. These regulations require business operators (particularly those processing wheat, rye, oats and potatoes) to follow procedures necessary to meet targets set to achieve specific objectives. The main objective of the regulation is to confirm compliance with benchmark levels of acrylamide: the effectiveness of mitigation measures by industry must be verified through sampling, testing and analysis.

During the Maillard reaction, the secondary reaction between free asparagine (ASN) and reducing sugars (glucose, fructose and sucrose) present in food results in acrylamide formation. In the processing of wheat and rye products, this reaction is limited by the amount of free asparagine. This is a naturally existing amino acid in grains and other raw food materials. Therefore, to implement an acrylamide reduction strategy, it is vital not only to measure acrylamide in the finished product, but also free asparagine in raw materials, prior to the formation of acrylamide during their cooking, so that mitigation strategies can be developed and employed. The ASNInstaTest project will aim to develop an instant test for asparagine.

Currently, testing for asparagine is via laboratory techniques using mainly gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC-MS) or high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) instrumentation. The process takes between three and five days to complete depending of the nature of the samples (i.e.raw materials or finished product). To help both industry and private clients, Curtis Analytics, together with other partners, are developing rapid, and portable methods for analyses of asparagine. Currently, we are measuring asparagine in a sample of wheat flour with the new ASNInstaTest in 10 min. This speedy testing will help the food industry to choose raw materials with low asparagine for their processes and reduce the level of acrylamide formed in end products.

This project will develop a proof-of-concept. ASNInstaTest is an innovative at-the-gate, rapid and easy-to-use test for asparagine in flour (with later applications in coffee and potato) to meet a specific need and allow the cereal industry to respond to imposed regulatory bench mark levels. The ASNInstaTest will be developed into a market ready product.

Legislation &
Regulation

The recently adopted regulation: EU COMMISSION REGULATION (EU 2017/2158) (20-Nov-2017), established mitigation measures and benchmark levels for the reduction of acrylamide in food.  The regulation requires business operators (companies that produce food from wheat, rye, oats, potatoes, coffee and cocoa) to adopt mitigation measures necessary to meet the objectives of the regulation. To confirm compliance with benchmark levels, the effectiveness of mitigation measures instigated by industry will have to be verified through sampling, testing and analysis.

From April 2020, the regulation will be enforced, and food-producers will have to show lowered acrylamide levels in their products.

Reducing the presence of acrylamide in food. The aims of the regulation are to reduce the level of acrylamide in food. To do that food manufacturers, fast-food chains and restaurants collectively known as a food business operators have to follow certain procedures. These mitigation measures are designed to ensure acrylamide levels in different foods are below the indicative benchmark levels set out in the legislation. 

Key points in legislation are the procedures are based on the current scientific and technical knowledge and are very depending on the size of the food operator – they are more difficult for the large-scale businesses.

Food business operators must apply the mitigation measures set out in the regulation’s annexes, sample and analyse the food they produce.  Consider whether changes to their production processes are necessary to comply with regulation.

The measures apply to selection, storage and transport of raw ingredients, recipes and design processes and information to the public.

The products covered by the legislation are French fries, other cur deep-fried products and sliced potato chips from fresh potatoes; potato crisps, snacks, crackers and other potato products from potato, dough, bread, fine bakery items such as cookies, biscuits, rusks, cereal bars, scones, cornets, wafers, crumpets, gingerbread, crackers and crisp breads; coffee (roast and instant) and coffee substitutes; baby food and processed cereal based food for infants and young children.

The European Commission will consider setting maximum acrylamide levels for certain foods the review the benchmark levels in the regulation every three years. The first time will be in 2021.

The regulation applies from 11thApril 2018.

Further reading

Acrylamide, a chemical described as ‘extremely hazardous’ and ‘probably carcinogenic to humans’, was discovered in food in 2002. Its presence in a range of popular foods has become one of the most difficult issues facing not only the food industry but all stakeholders in the food supply chain and its oversight. 

For further reading on this topic, you can read Acrylamide in Food by Nigel G Halford & Tanya Y Curtis.

 

Foods

Breakfast cereals and potatoes:

Acrylamide accumulation is highest in foods such as potato fries from fresh potatoes (on average 550 mg/kg), crisps (2214 mg/kg) and breakfast cereals (744 mg/kg).

The highest level of acrylamide registered in the literature is in beetroot crisps. This was 2,957 milligrams of acrylamide per kilogram – almost four times the EU benchmark level of 750 milligrams of acrylamide per kilogram

Testing methods for wheat, rye, potatoes and oats.

We recommend testing for asparagine, reducing sugars and acrylamide in all raw ingredients.

This will allow industry partners to ensure:

  1. That their starting ingredients have low acrylamide forming potential
  2. That if asparagine levels are high, asparaginase or asparagine reducing yeast could be used to mitigate the problem before baking.
  3. That agricultural practices for low asparagine forming potential are encouraged.

Send your sample today

Curtis Analytics
Lab 229 / Office 230
Rothamstead Enterprises
Daniel Hall Building
Harpenden
AL5 2JQ

01582 320980

 

 
 

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