Commission Recommendation 2007/331/EC of 3 May 2007 on the monitoring of acrylamide levels in food requires the Member States to perform annually in 2007, 2008 and 2009 the monitoring of acrylamide levels in certain foodstuffs. The current report describes the results from the monitoring exercise of 2008.
Member States were invited to analyse altogether approximately 2000 food samples in the following main food categories: ‘French fries’, ‘potato crisps’, ‘potato products for home cooking’, ‘bread’, ‘breakfast cereals’, ‘biscuits’, ‘roasted coffee’, ‘jarred baby foods’, ‘processed cereal-based baby foods’ and ‘other products’.
A total of 22 Member States and Norway submitted results for acrylamide level in foodstuffs. There were 3461 results reported for foods sampled in 2008, with a minimum of 96 reported for ‘processed cereal-based baby foods’ and a maximum of 782 reported for ‘other products’.
Two scenarios were assumed for handling data below the limit of detection (LOD) or quantification (LOQ). First, according to a lower bound scenario, values below LOD and values between the LOD and the LOQ were set to zero. Secondly, according to an upper bound scenario, values below LOD and values between LOD and LOQ were set to the LOD or the LOQ value, respectively.
The upper bound mean acrylamide level ranged from 23 µg/kg for ‘bread non-specified’ to 1124 µg/kg for ‘substitute coffee’. Both, the highest 95th percentile value and maximum value were reported for ‘substitute coffee’ at 3300 and 7095 µg/kg, respectively.
The 2008 results were compared with the 3281 results collected in 2007. In 2007, the upper bound mean acrylamide level ranged from 44 µg/kg for ‘jarred baby foods’ to 800 µg/kg for ‘substitute coffee’. Both, the highest 95th percentile value and maximum value were reported for ‘substitute coffee’ at 3025 and 4700 µg/kg, respectively.
The product categories ‘potato crisps’, ‘instant coffee’ and ‘substitute coffee’ showed statistically significantly higher levels of acrylamide in 2008 data compared to 2007 data. On the other hand, ‘French fries’ and ‘fried potato products for home cooking’, ‘soft bread’, ‘bread not specified’, ‘infant biscuit’, ‘biscuit not specified’, ‘muesli and porridge’ and ‘other products not specified’ showed significantly lower levels of acrylamide in 2008 data compared to 2007 data. There were no statistically significant differences in acrylamide level for the other food groups.
The food industry has developed voluntary measures, such as the so-called ‘toolbox’ approach, which provides guidance to help producers and processors in identifying ways to lower acrylamide in their respective products. High upper bound mean and 95th percentile acrylamide levels were found in all coffee groups and in particular in ‘substitute coffee’ and ‘instant coffee’ where no mitigation measures have been suggested. In the first acrylamide report in which 2003-2006 data were compared to 2007 data no clear trend towards lower acrylamide values over time was found. When comparing 2008 to 2007 data there seems to be a more apparent trend towards lower acrylamide values over time. However, it may be appropriate to assume that the application of the acrylamide toolbox was effective only in a limited number of food groups.
Whether this represents a trend towards lower acrylamide levels over time will become clearer from the results obtained in the coming years. An exposure assessment will be carried out next year to determine the biological relevance of any change in acrylamide levels over the three years analysed.