Acrylamide in food: consultation “will help refine EFSA opinion”

EFSA scientists have met to discuss some 100 comments with the contributors to a recent public consultation on acrylamide in food, a contaminant that forms in starchy foods as a result of high temperature food processing, including cooking. The comments and the productive follow-up meeting mainly focused on EFSA’s recent draft description of the potential health risks of acrylamide in food and estimation of human exposure to acrylamide in the diet. In its July 2014 draft opinion, EFSA provisionally concluded that “acrylamide in food potentially increases the risk of developing cancer for consumers in all age groups.

Speaking in Brussels, Dr Diane Benford, Chair of EFSA’s Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM), highlighted the positive impact of engaging with the commentators: “Today's meeting has been useful for us to listen, discuss, explain and better understand the public consultation results. This will certainly help us to refine our risk assessment and provide clear scientific advice for risk managers to use in developing regulatory or other measures.” More specifically, Dr Benford added, “We may look to better explain our assessment of the possible health effects especially in relation to studies involving humans. Further clarification of our dietary exposure estimation and the breakdown and reporting of food categories could also be helpful.”

The consultation ensures that the widest possible range of scientific views and information are considered before EFSA’s experts finalise their opinion of acrylamide in food, in the first half of 2015.

Today’s meeting was attended by some 50 participants including representatives of national food safety agencies and scientific advisory bodies, the food industry as well as academia and some individuals. EFSA scientific experts and staff were also present. Nine invited guest speakers gave presentations on issues they raised during the online consultation. These formed the basis for further discussions among all the participants.

A representative of the European Commission also gave a presentation on the background to the request sent to EFSA and the next steps for EU risk managers once EFSA’s opinion is finalised in 2015. The Commission considers the implementation of voluntary mitigation measures to reduce acrylamide levels in food unsatisfactory and variable among food business operators. The Commission, together with risk managers in Member States, will discuss further measures at EU level to reduce acrylamide levels in food as low as reasonably achievable.

Presentations from the meeting will be made available in due course on EFSA’s website.

Notes to editors
  • EFSA’s July 2014 draft scientific opinion confirmed previous evaluations that, based on animal studies, acrylamide in food potentially increases the risk of developing cancer for consumers in all age groups. Acrylamide in food is produced by the same chemical reaction that ‘browns’ food - also making it tastier - during every day high temperature cooking in the home, catering and food manufacturing. Coffee, fried potato products, biscuits, crackers and crisp breads, soft bread and certain baby foods (mainly rusks and biscuits) are important dietary sources of acrylamide. On a body weight basis, children are the most exposed age groups. See also Frequently asked questions on acrylamide in food
  • Together with national partners in the Member States, EFSA published an infographic on acrylamide in food to help increase awareness about this issue. The infographic explains how acrylamide forms and in which foods, and includes basic tips provided by national authorities on reducing acrylamide exposure in the diet.
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