The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has published its scientific opinion on acrylamide in food, warning of the potential risk to health.
Confirming previous evaluations, experts from EFSA's Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain stated that acrylamide in food potentially increases the risk of developing cancer for consumers in all age groups. On the basis of body weight, children are the most exposed age group.
Acrylamide is a chemical compound that naturally forms in starchy food products during high-temperature cooking, including frying, baking and roasting. It is caused by the same chemical reaction that also turns food brown during cooking, affecting its taste.
Evidence from animal studies shows that acrylamide and its metabolite glycidamide can damage DNA and cause cancer, although evidence from human studies that dietary exposure to acrylamide causes cancer is currently limited and inconclusive.
According to EFSA, acrylamide in food is absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract, distributed to all organs and extensively metabolized. Glycidamide is one of the main metabolites resulting from this process and is the most likely cause of the gene mutations and tumors seen in animal studies.
A wide range of processed foods contribute to acrylamide exposure, including fried potato products, coffee, biscuits, crackers, crisp bread and soft bread.
The panel of experts also considered possible harmful effects of acrylamide on the nervous system, pre- and post-natal development and male reproduction. They concluded that these effects were not a concern, based on current levels of dietary exposure.