Author: Ann-Cathrin Witte | Category: Food & Drink | November 18, 2023
Photo: New Africa/Shutterstock; Elena Kabenkina/Shutterstock; New Africa/Shutterstock; Avocado_studio/Shutterstock
Acrylamide is formed naturally when many starchy foods are cooked, roasted and fried. The problem: the substance represents a potential health risk, but with some simple measures it is possible to at least reduce its intake.
- Acrylamide is a chemical produced when starchy foods, such as chips or French fries, are prepared at high temperatures.
- The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has classified the substance as potentially carcinogenic since 2015.
- The absorption of acrylamide can be reduced using various measures. This also includes a balanced diet.
A bag of chips is often part of an evening in front of the TV on the sofa. And the visit to the pool is made even better by a portion of french fries with mayonnaise or ketchup. We know that these things aren’t necessarily healthy for us. If you think too much fat and salt, you’re almost right. Unfortunately we also consume a lot of acrylamide.
What is acrylamide?
Acrylamide, what is it anyway? The term refers to a chemical that can form in carbohydrate-rich foods when they are heated to high temperatures, such as during baking, frying, or roasting. It is made up of sugars such as glucose and fructose and the amino acid asparagine, which react with each other at temperatures above 120 degrees Celsius. At temperatures between 170 and 180 degrees Celsius the formation of acrylamide even increases significantly.
Acrylamide is also found in coffee (Photo: Company V/Shutterstock)
In which foods is acrylamide found?
Acrylamide is therefore often found in fried or fried potato products, such as crisps, crisps or croquettes, but also in cereal products such as toast, crispbread or biscuits. But acrylamide is also found in coffee and dried fruit. For most adults, according to the Consumer Advisory Center, daily coffee is one of the main sources of intake of the substance. The ÖKO-TEST also repeatedly detects acrylamide in food tests.
Here is an overview:
Chips: In a total of eight out of 20 packages of chips, our laboratory detected levels of acrylamide that we considered high or significantly high. This especially affected organic products. None of the products were free of acrylamide.
- We also criticized acrylamide in six products in the rice cake test.
Cornflakes: 15 out of 48 breakfast cereals contain acrylamide. In our opinion, the values of three of these products have even “significantly increased”.
Bread Baking Mixes: Almost all bread baking mixes in the test produced bread containing acrylamide when baked. Often only in trace amounts, but in eight cases the content was from “increased” to “strongly increased” according to ÖKO-TEST criteria.
- In our ground coffee test, acrylamide levels in 13 out of 20 types of coffee were rated “high.”
Crispbread: In our opinion, around three-quarters of the crispbreads tested were too contaminated with acrylamide.
This is why acrylamide is criticized
But why do we criticize the material? Acrylamide is considered a possible carcinogen. This was the verdict European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in a 2015 scientific report. The metabolic product is of particular concern Glycidamidewhich is created when acrylamide is broken down in our gastrointestinal tract. In animal studies, glycidamide has been shown to be the most likely cause of tumors and genetic mutations.
Based on these findings, EFSA concludes that there is a risk of the presence of acrylamide in food cannot provide a tolerable daily dose. This in turn is concerning because acrylamide is found naturally in a variety of everyday foods. This poses a risk, especially for children, as they may absorb larger amounts of acrylamide more quickly, based on their body weight.
EFSA’s evaluation was followed up in 2018 EU regulation to acrylamide in foods. It is aimed at companies such as food manufacturers, bakeries, restaurants and snack bars. The regulation requires these companies to take measures to reduce the acrylamide content in their products.
The three most important measures are:
If possible, raw materials with few reducing sugars should be used in production. This means, for example, that manufacturers of fried potato products ensure that when selecting potato types they contain the lowest possible levels of sugar and asparagine.
Products must be prepared at the lowest temperatures possible. For example, in the case of French fries or “other sliced or baked potato products”, EU legislation recommends a frying temperature of 160-175 degrees Celsius and an oven temperature of 180-220 degrees Celsius .
The food produced should only be browned to the extent necessary. The ideal tan is defined in the regulatory text as “golden yellow”.
Furthermore, the EU regulation also establishes guide values for the acrylamide content of certain foods, which should be regularly checked by the companies themselves by independent authorities.
Acrylamide is formed when sugar and amino acids react with each other at high temperatures (Photo: rfranca/Shutterstock)
This is what ÖKO-TEST means
Considering the health risks, ÖKO-TEST is also committed to reducing the acrylamide content in foods. Dr. Jürgen Steinert, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of ÖKO-TEST explains:
“Since 2002, when Swedish scientists detected acrylamide in various foods, ÖKO-TEST has had the products analyzed several times for this pollutant. Although the formation of this mutagenic and potentially carcinogenic substance cannot be completely avoided when baking, roasting or frying, the following applies “The aim is to minimize contamination of food with this toxic substance. The minimization measures and guideline values that came into force in 2018 under the EU regulation are going in the right direction – and are having an effect; acrylamide levels are decreasing. Nonetheless, legally binding limit values remain desirable.”
How can you avoid acrylamide?
However, acrylamide is not only found in ready-to-eat foods, but can also be produced at home when cooking and frying in your own kitchen. To keep acrylamide absorption as low as possible, the following measures are recommended:
- Only rarely consume heavily contaminated products such as potato chips or French fries.
- Rely on cooking methods such as boiling, steaming or sautéing. To date, no acrylamide has been detected in foods prepared in this way.
- Food such as toast, sandwiches etc. they are “brown” rather than “charred” – this means they should be heated only for as long as necessary and as low as possible.
- Baking paper or baking mats prevent food from darkening too much on baking sheets and in cake pans.
- The same goes for homemade biscuits: lightly baked biscuits contain less acrylamide than heavily browned biscuits.
- An egg or yolk in the dough reduces the formation of acrylamide. However, ingredients such as deer antler salt or toasted almonds can increase the acrylamide content of cookies.
- Do not store potatoes in the refrigerator. Storing them in the refrigerator creates more sugar in the potatoes, which in turn can lead to more acrylamide formation during preparation.
Further advice can be found on the website of the Consumer Advice Centre, among other places.
More information at oekotest.de: