New acrylamide legislation to come into force from April 2018

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01 Dec 2017 --- The clock is counting down to April 2018 when new EU legislation will come into force requiring food businesses to put in place practical steps to manage acrylamide within their food safety management systems. The new laws describe 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.

From April 2018, Commission Regulation (EU) 2017/2158 will take effect. This will establish best practice, mitigation measures and benchmark levels for the reduction of the presence of acrylamide in food.

Food business operators will be expected to:

  • Be aware of acrylamide as a food safety hazard and have a general understanding of how acrylamide is formed in the food they produce;
  • Take the necessary steps to mitigate acrylamide formation in the food they produce; adopting the relevant measures as part of their food safety management procedures;
  • Undertake representative sampling and analysis where appropriate, to monitor the levels of acrylamide in their products as part of their assessment of the mitigation measures;
  • Keep appropriate records of the mitigation measures undertaken, together with sampling plans and results of any testing.

The measures are proportionate to the nature and size of the business, to ensure that small and micro-businesses are not burdened. The new legislation applies to all FBOs that produce or place on the market certain foods. 

These includes French fries, potato crisps, snacks, crackers and other potato products from potato dough, bread, breakfast cereals (excluding porridge), fine bakery wares like cookies, biscuits, rusks, cereal bars, scones, cornets, wafers, crumpets and gingerbread, as well as crackers, crisp breads and bread substitutes. Also on the list is coffee and coffee substitutes as well as baby food and processed cereal-based food intended for infants and young children.

Different requirements apply to local and independent FBOs selling food directly to the consumer or directly into local retail. For example, independent cafes, fish and chip shops and restaurants.

For larger centrally controlled and supplied chains with standardized menus and operating procedures the legislation reflects that the controls of acrylamide can be managed from the center. This would apply to, for example, large restaurants, hotels and café chains.

Food Standards Agency 
In the UK, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Food Standards Scotland are working with the British Hospitality Association and other key stakeholders to develop a simple guidance which will help the catering and foodservice sectors comply with new rules.  

Guidelines to help understand the enforcement of the legislation will also be available in the New Year.

The FSA has been undertaking surveillance on acrylamide levels in food products since 2007. 

Developing analytical methods 
Since acrylamide was first identified in food products in 2002, laboratories have developed and validated analytical methods for the quantification of acrylamide, according to scientists at leading food laboratory, RSSL.

“We have been helping our customers to analyze acrylamide for many years,” says Emilie Clauzier, Senior Scientist at RSSL. “Many of our clients commission us to perform their annual surveillance testing to understand the levels of acrylamide in finished products as well as testing samples at different stages of the manufacturing process.” 

RSSL has UKAS accreditation to test acrylamide in biscuits and the same method is applicable to a number of different food products. The sample preparation is complex, and the LC-MS technique used in detection/quantification is highly sophisticated and capable of detecting low levels of acrylamide, according to Clauzier.

“As the food industry is being challenged to reduce acrylamide levels, our clients are coming to us to help them monitor their acrylamide levels. These results can be used when challenged by regulatory bodies.”

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