Europe seeks comments on acrylamide safety issue

by Jeff Gelski
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PARMA, ITALY — The European Food Safety Authority on July 1 launched a public consultation on its draft scientific opinion on acrylamide in food. Scientists and other interested parties may comment through an on-line public consultation until Sept. 15. The deadline for the final adoption of the opinion is June 2015.

In the draft opinion, the E.F.S.A.’s Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM) confirmed previous evaluations that based on animal studies acrylamide in food potentially increases the risk of developing cancer for consumers in all age groups. The Maillard Reaction, the chemical reaction that “browns” food during high temperatures of more than 150 degrees Celsius (302 degrees Fahrenheit), produces acrylamide in food.

Dietary sources of acrylamide have been shown to include coffee, fried potato products, biscuits, crackers and crisp breads, soft bread and certain baby foods, according to the E.F.S.A. On a body weight basis, children are the most exposed age group.

“So far, human studies on occupational and dietary exposure to acrylamide have provided limited and inconsistent evidence on increased risk of developing cancer,” said Diane Bedford, the chair of the CONTAM panel.

The panel considered possible harmful effects of acrylamide on the nervous system, pre-natal development, post-natal development and male reproduction. Based on current levels of dietary exposure, the effects were not considered a concern.

In 2005, the CONTAM panel endorsed a risk assessment by the joint Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization expert committee on food additives (JECFA) indicating a human health concern for cancer with acrylamide. The JECFA confirmed its earlier assessment in 2010. The E.F.S.A. published four reports on acrylamide levels in food between 2009 and 2012.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in November 2013 issued a draft guidance to help growers, manufacturers and food operators take steps to reduce levels of acrylamide in certain foods. According to the F.D.A., the National Toxicology Program characterizes acrylamide as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.” The F.D.A.’s draft guidance, which is non-binding, covers raw materials, processing practices and ingredients affecting potato-based foods, cereal-based foods and coffee.
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