11 Apr 2018 --- New European Union legislation comes into force today (April 11) concerning the amount of acrylamide in foods with “benchmark” levels being set for various products. Passed by the EU last year, today marks the beginning of the law which limits the amount of acrylamide allowed in packaged foods and forces manufacturers to closely examine and reduce acrylamide levels in products.
The legislation describes practical measures based upon best practice guidance developed by the food industry to mitigate acrylamide formation in a range of foods.
Acrylamide forms naturally during high-temperature cooking and processing, such as frying, roasting and baking, particularly in potato-based and cereal-based products. It is not possible to eliminate acrylamide from foods, but actions can be taken to try and ensure that acrylamide levels are as low as reasonably achievable.
Due to the suspected toxicity of the substance, acrylamide levels in food have been monitored for years and subject to debate and discussion.
In an opinion adopted in 2015, the Scientific Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) confirmed that acrylamide in food potentially increases the risk of developing cancer for consumers in all age groups.
The very purpose of the acrylamide regulation is to achieve levels that are as low as reasonably achievable, below benchmark levels set out in Annex IV to the regulation. The benchmark levels range from 40μg/kg in baby foods to 4,000μg/kg in chicory used as a coffee substitute.
Most breakfast cereals have a benchmark level set at 300μg/kg, except for maize, oat, spelt, barley and rice-based products, for which the benchmark level is 50 percent lower.
The levels are 350 micrograms (μg) of acrylamide per kilogram for biscuits and cookies to 750μg per kilogram for potato crisps and 850μg per kilogram for instant soluble coffee.
These benchmark levels are due to be reviewed by the European Commission every three years, with the aim to gradually set lower levels.
Today’s implementation will no doubt result in concerned food business operators having to take into account the acrylamide benchmark levels defined by the regulation, and implementing mitigation measures to the purpose of reducing the presence of acrylamide in their food products. This includes potato-based products, bread and bakery wares, cereals, coffee and coffee substitutes, as well as baby food.
“The very purpose of the Acrylamide Regulation is to achieve levels of acrylamide as low as reasonably achievable below benchmark levels set out in Annex IV to the regulation,” notes Nicolas Carbonnelle of law firm Bird & Bird LLP in the March 2018 issue of The World of Food Ingredients.
“These benchmark levels are due to be reviewed by the Commission every three years, with the aim to gradually set lower levels. The actual measures that the concerned food business operators will need to implement depend on the category of products, the role of the operators in the supply chain and their business size.” For example, the Food Benchmark level in μg/kg for French fries (ready-to-eat) is 500.
“Europe has now caught up with innovation”
Today’s acrylamide legislation closely follows the new sugar tax which came into effect in the UK on April 6 pushing up the price of sugary soft drinks as part of the UK government’s anti-obesity drive. Read more here.
As with sugar reformulation, manufacturers can discover ways to reduce the amount of acrylamide in their food products – especially now the legislation has taken effect.
Global biotechnology company, Novozymes, Vice President, Food & Beverages Business Operations, Europe and Americas, Arnaud Melin, tells FoodIngredientsFirst how the company has been operating in this space for several years, pioneering award-winning acrylamide reduction technology.
“Novozymes first launched the award-winning Acrylaway technology in 2007, more than ten years ago, and legislation in Europe has now caught up with innovation,” he said.
“Acrylaway is an asparaginase enzyme that reduces significantly – up to 90 percent – acrylamide levels in baked goods, potato-based snacks, and coffee – without affecting the taste, texture, or appearance of the final products.”
“The asparaginase is a processing aid – and Acrylaway is easily adapted to various food types and processes with only minor or no changes to process or recipes.”
“The food industry cares about food safety and acrylamide, and we have been working closely with many of the industry players for years; players that have welcomed, and appreciated, cost-efficient, natural solutions to confront a challenging issue – also with health-conscious consumers’ awareness on the rise.”
Other companies leading the charge regarding acrylamide reduction include Orkla Food Ingredients, a business area of Orkla ASA, which has signed a license agreement with Renaissance BioScience Corp to exclusively produce and sell Renaissance acrylamide-reducing yeast to food manufacturers in the European Nordic and Baltic markets.
This originally started in 2017 and in February this year was expanded to food manufacturers in additional new markets in Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
“Since we finalized our agreement with Renaissance last year we have conducted several commercial trials, all of which have shown excellent results and successfully launched the product for sale in the Nordic markets,” said Thore Svensson, Senior Vice President of Orkla Food Ingredients.
“As the European regulatory structure governing the acrylamide content of many food products and coffee comes into force, Orkla is pleased to expand its agreement with Renaissance to include Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, to make Acrylow available to food manufacturers in those countries.”
The company says that Acrylow has shown excellent results in large-scale industrial trials in baked goods and snack foods, as well as in lab-scale tests in French fries, chips and coffee. This yeast was granted GRAS status by the US FDA in 2016 – the same status as conventional baker’s and brewer’s yeasts. It is patent-pending and was developed using classical non-GMO techniques.
“It’s gratifying to see that Orkla and its food manufacturer customers have found our acrylamide-reducing yeast to be effective and easy to use in trials with no sensory impact on the finished product,” said Dr. Cormac O’Cleirigh, Chief Business Development Officer for Renaissance BioScience. Orkla is a leader in food quality and safety, and Renaissance is pleased to be partnering with the company to bring Acrylow not only to the already licensed Nordic and Baltic markets but also to these new central European markets.”
The industry’s acrylamide reduction efforts, which have been voluntary until now, are expected to ramp up now that the EU legislation has come into force.
By Gaynor Selby
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