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Acrylamide levels in food largely unchanged states EFSA’s latest report

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has published its annual update report on acrylamide levels in food in 25 European countries. Acrylamide is a chemical contaminant produced during food processing. The report covers the monitoring period 2007-2010 and does not reveal any considerable change from the last report for the majority of the food categories assessed. Since 2008 the number of results submitted to EFSA declined, limiting the reliability of the trend analysis.

Acrylamide is a chemical compound that typically forms in starchy food products such as potato crisps, French fries, bread, biscuits and coffee, during high-temperature processing, including frying, baking and roasting. 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 (i.e. it may cause cancer and harm DNA, the genetic material of cells). Member States are requested to perform yearly monitoring of acrylamide levels and EFSA assesses these data for compilation in an annual report.

This is the fourth annual report on acrylamide monitoring in food produced by EFSA since 2009. The report was prepared by EFSA’s Dietary and Chemical Monitoring Unit using some 13,000 data points on acrylamide levels in food. Since 2008, the number of analytical results submitted to EFSA declined; in the 2010 monitoring period, on average, only two-thirds of the minimum number of samples set by the European Commission per food category were submitted. In terms of the results, there were downward trends in acrylamide levels in the category ‘processed cereal-based foods for infants and young children’ and the sub-categories ‘non-potato based savoury snacks’ and ‘biscuits and rusks for infants and young children’. On the other hand, there were rises in the ‘coffee and coffee substitutes’ category and in the sub-categories ‘crisp bread’, ‘instant coffee’ and ‘French fries from fresh potatoes’ though for the latter this was not consistent across Europe.

EFSA will continue to collect acrylamide monitoring data and will update in 2013 its European exposure assessment (last carried out in 2011) based on more recent data on acrylamide levels in food as well as new food consumption data. 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.

Notes to editors

Twenty-four EU Member States and Norway submitted a total of 13,162 acrylamide results in the four-year monitoring period 2007-2010. Data for ten main food groups, subdivided into twenty-six sub groups, were submitted pertaining to the monitoring period.

On 10 January 2011, the European Commission adopted a Recommendation on investigations on the levels of acrylamide in food. In cases where the levels of acrylamide in a foodstuff, tested in the monitoring exercise, exceed certain acrylamide indicative values, the Member States are recommended to report the results back to the Commission who will assess the situation by December 2012. See European Commission website.

EFSA’s Advisory Forum connects EFSA with the national food safety authorities of all 27 EU Member States, Iceland and Norway. Representatives from national food safety authorities of Switzerland and of the EU Candidate Countries participate as observers. Read more about EFSA’s Advisory Forum .

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