EFSA has published a summary of acrylamide levels in different types of food sampled in 2008. The report is based on over 3,400 results provided by 22 European Union Member States and Norway.
The highest average levels of acrylamide were reported in the food group “substitute coffee”, which includes coffee-like drinks based on cereals, such as barley or chicory. Of the 22 food groups sampled, the lowest average levels were found in unspecified bread products.
Overall, reported acrylamide levels seemed to be lower in 2008 than 2007. However, this was not the case for all food groups and some showed higher levels of acrylamide in 2008, such as potato crisps, instant coffee and substitute coffee. The overall trend will become clearer from the results obtained in the coming years.
Acrylamide is a substance that can be formed in certain foods, typically starchy products, through high-temperature cooking processes including frying, baking and roasting. An EFSA statement in 2005 confirmed that acrylamide is both carcinogenic and genotoxic (i.e. it can cause damage to the genetic material of cells).
This is the second in a series of three EFSA reports (covering 2007, 2008 and 2009 respectively) which will help the European Commission and EU Member States to determine whether or not voluntary measures taken by the food industry to reduce acrylamide levels have been successful.
Next year, and taking into account the data from 2007 to 2009, EFSA will carry out an exposure assessment to determine how changes in acrylamide levels in different types of food affect the total amount of acrylamide that people consume.