The Food Standards Agency has released information to consumers about how to lower consumption of acrylamide in food, but what is all the fuss about?
What is Acrylamide?
Acrylamide is a chemical produced naturally in food as a result of cooking starch-rich food at high temperatures, such as when baking, roasting, frying or toasting. It is also found in coffee.
What’s the problem?
In 2002, Swedish studies revealed that high levels of acrylamide could be formed during the frying or baking of potato or cereal products. This raised worldwide public concern because studies in laboratory animals suggest acrylamide has the potential to cause cancer in humans.
This is not a new risk, acrylamide is formed in food by common cooking practices and so people will have been exposed to acrylamide in their diet throughout history. Whilst no-one is going to drop dead tomorrow from eating an over-cooked chip or burned toast today, the scientists recommend that it makes sense to reduce acrylamide in food as much as we can. New legislation coming from Europe will come into force shortly to require businesses to reduce acrylamide as much as reasonably possible, and in advance of this many manufacturers have been implementing control measures for some time.
How to reduce the risks
Fortunately, it is actually quite easy and cheap to control acrylamide! As many manufacturers have already made the necessary adjustments, it is not necessary to stop eating starchy foods such as crisps despite what the newspaper headlines may say. We just need to follow a few simple tips whether at home or in catering businesses:
- Cook or toast foods to light (golden) rather than dark colours;
- Always follow manufacturers’ cooking instructions – use a thermometer!
- Fry foods at lower temperatures – again use a thermometer!
- Decrease the cooking time when possible;
- Blanch potatoes before frying them;
- Avoid overheating oils and fats;
- Frequently change oils and fats.
- Don’t store potatoes in the fridge (it increases starch levels);
- Avoid bruised potatoes (this also increases starch levels).
More information can be found from the following links: