Acrylamide in food – EFSA to publicly consult on draft opinion in 2014

EFSA’s experts have identified hundreds of scientific studies to consider for the Authority’s first full risk assessment of acrylamide, a chemical compound that forms in starchy food products during high-temperature cooking (including frying, baking and roasting). In 2005, EFSA stated that acrylamide may be a human health concern and that efforts should be made to reduce exposure to this substance through the diet. EFSA’s comprehensive assessment of this scientific issue will allow EU decision-makers to take account of the latest scientific findings in managing possible risks associated with the presence of acrylamide in the food chain.

An EFSA statement in 2005 noted that there may be a potential health concern with acrylamide which is considered to be both carcinogenic and genotoxic in test animals. In September 2012, EFSA received a proposal from organisations belonging to four EU Member States (Denmark, France, Germany and Sweden) to consider new scientific findings on the possible carcinogenicity of acrylamide. Subsequently, EFSA accepted a request from the European Commission to provide a scientific opinion on the potential risks for human health of acrylamide in food.

EU Member States are requested to perform yearly monitoring of acrylamide levels and EFSA has assessed these data in four annual monitoring reports. The last report from 2012 did not reveal any considerable differences from previous years in the levels of acrylamide in most food categories assessed. In April 2013, EFSA launched a call to food business operators and other stakeholders to submit additional analytical data on acrylamide levels in foods and beverages collected from 2010 onwards. The Authority has also consulted consumer organisations, NGOs and the food industry through its Stakeholder Consultative Platform to find out about ongoing and recent research related to acrylamide in food. EFSA will also consider related international developments, including work by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA).

Using these results and other available scientific information, experts on EFSA’s Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM Panel) will assess the toxicity of acrylamide for humans and update its estimate of consumer exposure through the diet. EFSA’s experts aim to complete this full risk assessment and publicly consult on their draft scientific opinion in mid-2014. The feedback received will assist the Panel in finalising its scientific opinion, scheduled for the first half of 2015.

Notes to editors
  • Acrylamide forms from sugars and an amino acid that are naturally present in food. Acrylamide has been found in products such as potato crisps, French fries, bread, biscuits and coffee. It was first detected in foods in April 2002.
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