Acrylamide Triggers New Food Safety Legislation

Acrylamide is a chemical substance produced when starch is overheated to cause a reaction between amino acids and sugars. It occurs when foods with high starch content such as potatoes, root vegetables or bread, crisps, cakes, biscuits and cereals, are cooked at high temperatures during the frying, roasting or baking process. Acrylamide is not added to food, it is a natural by-product of cooking processes, and has always been present in these types of foods. Recent scientific tests have led to acrylamide being classified as a ‘probable carcinogen’. This has prompted scientists to conclude that humans should minimise consumption of this chemical, to reduce cancer potential. Whilst it is not possible to remove acrylamide, there are several measures which can be taken to reduce the levels. New legislation directs that practical measures must be taken to mitigate acrylamide formation in foods and from April 2018 Food Business Operators are now 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 When it comes to both food storage and cooking, managing temperature is the main factor for the formation of acrylamide. When cooking, acrylamide levels are increased by high temperatures. A particularly high amount is produced when potato and cereal-containing foods are heated above 180°C. Acrylamide formation begins at around 120°C, but increases rapidly at 170-180°C. This needs to be considered by those involved in any type of cooking or even pre-cooking. With these types of foods, it is advisable for them to be cooked at a lower temperature than usual and for slightly longer periods if required. With fried foods, the temperature of the oil needs to be correct and you should not rely on fryer thermostats. A simple record of oil temperature, taken with a cooking oil thermometer, will assist when it comes to an audit as proof of due diligence regarding the ‘records of the mitigation measures undertaken’ mentioned above. Indeed, there are instruments available which will measure temperature and oil quality allowing better management of oil consumption. One of the main steps recommended by the Food Standards Agency is not to keep raw potatoes in the fridge, particularly if you intend on cooking them at high temperatures. Doing so is likely to lead to the formation of more free sugars in the potatoes (referred to as ‘cold sweetening’) and can increase overall acrylamide levels especially if the potatoes are then fried, roasted or baked. Ideally, potatoes should be stored in a cool, dark place at a temperature of 6°C or above. For more information on the new legislation, click...
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