Acrylamide is a chemical compound that typically forms in starchy food products during high-temperature cooking, including frying, baking and roasting. It 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, although it is likely that people have always been exposed to it in their diet.
EFSA provides independent scientific advice to risk managers on acrylamide. In particular, at the request of the European Commission, EFSA compiles data on acrylamide levels in a range of foods across Europe. Data submitted by Member States are assessed and compiled into annual reports.
EFSA’s work helps identify trends in acrylamide levels over time. It also helps the European Commission and EU Member States assess the effectiveness of voluntary measures taken by the food industry to reduce acrylamide levels.
In 2012, EFSA published its fourth report on acrylamide, which compares data submitted in 2010 with previous data from 2008 and 2009. The previous report, published in 2011, included an exposure assessment to estimate the intake of acrylamide for different age groups as well as the major contributors to acrylamide exposure in the diets of consumers in Europe. Exposure estimates for the different age groups were comparable with those previously reported for European countries. In 2013, EFSA will update its European exposure assessment based on more recent data on acrylamide levels in food as well as new food consumption data.
An EFSA statement in 2005 noted that there may be a potential health concern with acrylamide which is known to be both carcinogenic and genotoxic. The statement endorsed the conclusions and recommendations of a previous risk assessment on acrylamide carried out by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA). In this assessment, JECFA concluded that acrylamide may indicate a human health concern and that efforts should be made to reduce exposure.
Main work in progress
EFSA monitors ongoing developments in scientific research and continues to play an active role in building understanding of acrylamide in foods. At the request of the food safety agencies in Denmark, France, Germany and Sweden, the Authority is also in discussions with these national food safety agencies and other members of EFSA’s Advisory Forum, regarding recent scientific developments on acrylamide and its possible impact on public health.