Acrylamide Foods to Avoid and Control – Your Legal Duties Explained
New EU Regulation Introduced
Acrylamide (a contaminant) has been found to be present in very high quantities in many foods. A new regulation has therefore been introduced to control acrylamide levels in food. EU Regulation 2017/2158 can be viewed here in its entirety. However, to save you from trawling through legalese, we’ve summarised your legal duties for regulating acrylamide levels, together with details on which acrylamide foods to avoid and control.
What is Acrylamide?
Acrylamide is an organic compound that forms naturally from asparagine and sugars. It is a contaminant and a chemical hazard. The substance has been linked to cancer, and studies show that it is present in approximately a third of all calories consumed by Europeans and Americans.
The contaminant forms when certain foods (see below) are prepared. This occurs typically when these acrylamide foods are prepared at high temperatures (over 120 °C) in low moisture environments. So, certain foods that are burnt, roasted, toasted, BBQ’d or cooked at really high temperatures pose a risk.
Knowing which acrylamide foods to avoid and control is important. It ensures that you are aware of, and are minimising acrylamide contaminants in foods that are prepared, served, or sold on your premises.
Which Acrylamide Foods to Avoid and Control
Products that are affected by the new regulations are:
- Roasted potatoes and root vegetables
- Chips, French fries or other cut (deep fried) products from fresh potatoes
- Crisps, snacks, crackers and other potato products from potato dough
- Bread, toast and other fine bakery wares including cookies, biscuits, rusks, cereal bars, scones, cornets, wafers, crumpets and gingerbread, as well as crackers, crisp breads and bread substitutes.
- Breakfast cereals (excluding porridge)
- Baby foods
Your Legal Duties Summarised
Now you know which acrylamide foods to avoid and control, how do you actually go about managing them?
Obviously you can’t always replace a food, but you can alter the way you work to ensure acrylamides are reduced. The new regulations outline your legal duties, as detailed below.
There are differing levels of compliance required depending on whether you are a food manufacturer, an independent food retailer, or a direct food retailer that operates under franchise arrangements or from a centrally controlled purchaser/supplier.
Despite these different levels of compliance your main legal duties include:
- Increasing staff level of knowledge so that everyone has an appropriate level of awareness;
- Collecting samples from suppliers of any regulated products you use (such as cereals, bread, coffee, etc). Sampling of these food products ensures that acrylamide levels are kept at a minimum. You can also prove that you are actively managing the contaminant, which leads on to…
- Keeping records. Recording all of the measures you take to minimise acrylamide levels in regulated foods means you can prove you have taken all necessary steps to minimise the contaminant risk;
- Introducing processes that guarantee acrylamides are kept to a minimum during food production. See the tips below for some examples of processes that can help you reduce the level of acrylamide in foods.
To Avoid or Not to Avoid – A Few Tips for Minimising Acrylamide Levels in Foods
This blog post references which acrylamide foods to avoid and control. However, you can’t always avoid these foods. If customers want roast potatoes, roast potatoes customers will get.
As well as adhering to the above regulatory requirements, here are some tips for minimising acrylamide levels:
- Soaking and rinsing some products (such as potatoes) will help to increase moisture levels and remove starches and sugars, which cause the contaminant to form.
- Avoid burning, charring or overcooking food. For example, toast bread lightly, and aim for light colours when frying and roasting (instead of dark, crusty products).
- Regulate cooking temperatures. For example, use an automatic deep fat fryer to control temperature and cooking time, which avoids over cooking and excessive temperatures.
- Provide colour charts in the kitchen for staff to identify acrylamide foods and correct cooking temperatures.
- Sample regulated acrylamide foods (especially important for larger businesses).
The above tips and regulatory duties should help you to keep acrylamide levels low.
If, however, you would like some help to make sure you don’t miss anything, then please contact us for some friendly advice from one of our food safety consultants.