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Acrylamide

F O O D

S C I E N C E

Overview and Chemistry


At a Glance
Acrylamide
may be considered a food
science controversy because
a toxic level in
humans has
not been established.
Different regulatory agencies
have determined that
reducing
acrylamide
levels would
be beneficial
but more research needs to
be completed.

INSIDE
THIS ISSUE:
Acrylamide
in Food

Environmental Is-

Safety

Reducing
Acrylamide

2-3

Coffee

Conclusion

References

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K E L S E A H O P K I N S ,
L E I G H O S B O R N E , &
K A I T L Y N

D I C K S O N

Acrylamide is a chemical formed from the Maillard browning reaction during cooking. According to the
international agency for research on cancer, acrylamide is classified as a group 2A carcinogen and a category 2 carcinogen and mutagen by the European Union.1
However, it is up for debate as far as how much acrylamide is ingested on a daily basis and how much can
be potentially harmful.2 Possible toxic levels of acrylamide have not yet been established but there has been
a variety of research on reducing acrylamide levels in the diet including: farming practices, genetic modification, the use of asparaginase, alternative cooking methods, and storage.2,3
Acrylamide is found in food products, cigarettes, water, and industrial agricultural procedures.1 The FDA
and World Health Organization acknowledge that acrylamide is a human health concern but suggest that
consumers just adopt a eating plan consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.1 Other studies
have suggested that people, including food service operations, dramatically reduce acrylamide. 2 The right
answer may be found in between the two ideas.

The Maillard reaction is a non-enzymatic reaction requiring a reducing sugar, amino acid, and heat
that creates melanoidins.2 Acrylamide forms when asparagine and a reducing sugar are heated over
248 degrees Fahrenheit, though higher temperatures often produce more. Other conditions may
enhance the Maillard reaction including alkaline pH and low moisture conditions.1

Acrylamide in Food
There are particularly high
amounts of acrylamide in
French- fries, chips, coffee, stir
fry vegetables, breads and bakery products.1, 4 It is found in
many other foods, especially
those rich in sugars or starches.
Acrylamide forms most often
when frying, baking, or broiling

products.3 The more brown a


food comes out, it is likely
that there is more acrylamide.
Boiling, blanching, microwaving, and baking at extremely low temperatures produces less acrylamide. 4
Because there are not established safe or toxic lev-

Environmental Issues
Genetic Modification
Potato tubers are high in asparagine and sugar concentration giving them the precursors necessary to
produce acrylamide. In 2015, the FDA approved for
general consumption a genetically modified potato
coined Innate by agribusiness Simplot.5
The potatoes are genetically engineered to contain
less of the enzyme that synthesizes asparagine, and
less asparagine content results in less acrylamide.
While the FDA states the potatoes are safe, the use of
GM food is still widely controversial. McDonald's,
Frito, and other major companies refuse to purchase
Innate potatoes to use in their products because they
are genetically modified.5 The common concern is
that consumers will avoid their brands based on the
use of genetic modification. These preferences may
change and the use of innate potatoes continues to be
a possibility.

els, it is recommended to limit


the amount of acrylamide
containing foods in the diet.1
The FDA has established several recommendations both
for food manufacturers and
home cooks to help reduce
acrylamide exposure.1

Soil Content
The mineral content of the soil can influence the
amount of acrylamide produced in food. Nitrogen
fertilizer is routinely used on potato crops to cultivate maximum yield. This practice can increase free
amino acid concentration in potatoes. Sulfur deprivation of soil can result in an increase in the concentration of sugar in potatoes.6
Sulfur deficiency leads to the greatest asparagine
accumulation in wheat grain.7 This increase is so
great, that even a small amount of grain produced
from a sulfur depleted crop that enters the food chain
could increase acrylamide risk. Sulfur deficiency can
also determine where asparagine accumulates in the
milling fractions of the wheat.6, Under normal conditions, asparagine will accumulate mostly in the bran
of the wheat but under sulfur deficiency, it is also
found in the white flour fractions. Asparagine can
end up in more products.6,7

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Roasted root Veggies:


Image from myrecipes

Safety
Neurotoxin

Cancer

Acrylamide is a toxic chemical with potential neurotoxic effects when exposed to high
levels. Neurotoxic symptoms are characterized by ataxia, skeletal muscle weakness and
numbness in the hands and feet. Numerous
animal studies and human studies have identified acrylamide as a neurotoxin.8

A 2015 study linked low dose long-term exposure to acrylamide to tumor development in
male and female mice. This study contributes
the carcinogenic activity of acrylamide to its
conversion to glycidamide, a less stable metabolite.9

However the level of exposure needed to


produce neurotoxic symptoms in humans has
only been linked to acrylamide in an industrial occupational setting by skin exposure or
inhalation.9 It is unlikely that levels of
acrylamide produced in foods can result in
sufficient exposure to cause neurological
damage.

A 2011 meta-analysis on epidemiological


studies attempting to link acrylamide in food
to cancer concluded that available studies consistently lacked evidence that an increased risk
of most cancer results from exposure to
acrylamide, however the European Food Safety Authority and then WHO consider the
strong evidence from animal studies enough to
warn consumers against potential carcinogenic
effects of acrylamide.9,10

Reducing Acrylamide: Baked Goods


Acrylamide is
labeled as a
chemical
contaminant by the
Food and Drug
Administration. It is
a potent rodent
carcinogen and
possible human
carcinogen. It is also
a human
neurotoxin.

ACRYLAMIDE

Raw Materials 3
Select cereals that are lower in asparagine levels, as asparagine content is the
driving factor of acrylamide formation
rather than reducing sugar content.
Pro:
This is an easy change.
Cons:
May alter the taste/ texture of the
product.. Levels vary within the
categories.

Food Processing Conditions3


Yeast fermentation of wheat bread dough reduces asparagine content.
Bake at lower temperatures for longer periods of
time or decrease the temperature in final stages
of baking.
Pro:
Yeast is easy and cheap to use.
Cons:
Slower production lines, lighter color,
shorter shelf life, and need for recipe
changes.
Yeast requires specific conditions.

Recipe3
High extraction flours contain less asparagine than wholemeal flours.
Use sucrose instead of reducing sugars, especially if browning is not essential.
Fortify breads with cations (ie calcium carbonate).
Reduce ammonium bicarbonate as a raising agent and use alternative leavening agents.
Add asparaginase in production of wheat-dough based products.
For breakfast cereals, add sugars after, instead of prior to baking process.
Pros:
If calcium carbonate is added, this enhances the nutritional quality of the product.
Reducing ammonium bicarbonate is high impact, low cost, and maintains quality.
Aspariginase is very effective in reducing acrylamide (35-90% reductions).
Cons:
High extraction flowers contain significantly less nutrients.
Using sucrose may produce a lighter color and interfere with flavor formation.
Replacing ammonium with sodium bicarbonate could increase the sodium content.
Aspariginase requires specific conditions (ie. high moisture, low chlorine, neutral pH).

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Reducing Acrylamide: Potato Products


Raw Materials12
Select potato varieties with low reducing sugar levels.
Storage of potatoes below 43 degrees F increases reducing sugar levels, so storage
above this temperature is best (50 degrees is
optimal).
Select potatoes that do not have defects or
bruising, as this has been linked to increased
levels of acrylamide in products.
Immature tubers have higher levels of reducing sugars, so selection of more mature tubers
is optimal.
Manage storage conditions to control sprouting and provide proper ventilation, to prevent
increased acrylamide formation.
Pros
Relatively easy to implement.
Cons:
Will require minor procedure changes
for food companies. Most fries are made
with Russet potatoes, that have the highest
level of reducing sugars, so it would re
quire a major sourcing change and could
possible affect the flavor and texture of
the final product.

Food Processing Conditions12


Reduce surface area by cutting potatoes into thicker slices.
Blanching prior to frying reduces asparagine and reducing sugars. Shorter blanching times at high temperatures are most effective at reducing acrylamide.
Treat french fries with sodium acid pyrophosphate (SAPP) during or after blanching.
Decrease frying temperatures to no more than 345-350 F and
target higher moisture endpoints.
For sliced potato chips: Cook at higher temperatures initially (ie
flash frying or vacuum drying), then lower temperatures at the
end stage, when moisture content is low.
For sliced potato chips, conduct sorting to remove dark chips.
Pros:
Blanching prior to frying and SAPP is already a common
practice.
Removing dark chips can be easily implemented.
Cons:
Thick potato slices may be undesirable.
Excess blanching or SAPP may cause off flavors.
Frying below 345 F may cause higher fat uptake and
reduced crispness, while higher moisture products may
become stale quickly.
Cooking at multiple temperatures adds extra steps to
processing.
Removing dark chips may increase time and labor
costs.

Recipes12
Sugar dipping after blanching reduces levels of
acrylamide compared with no dip in the manufacturing of french fries. Avoid using fructose in sugar
dips and coatings.
Use alternate coloring to achieve brown effect, like
annatto, instead of relying on cooking to produce
brown color.
Use alternate cooking methods such as blanching,
low temperature roasting, or microwaving
Pros:
Sugar dipping is a common practice that
improves uniform coloration and taste.
Cons:
Consumer allergic reactions to colors.
Changes desired result due to cooking methods.

Coffee11
Several things can affect
acrylamide levels in coffee
including:
Bean type (robusta has higher levels of acrylamide than arabica).
Dark roast has less acrylamide than light roast
Levels decline during long-term storage.
Treatment of green coffee bean with asparaginase is effective but there is a significant effect on taste).
Short brews produce beverages with lower acrylamide
levels than long brews.

Conclusion
Consuming foods in moderation is an important aspect of eating. Utilizing this concept will ensure that people are only consuming a reasonable amount of acrylamide containing foods. More research needs to be completed to assess the actually toxicity of acrylamide, and an acceptable dose needs to be determined. In the meantime, people concerned about acrylamide can
utilize the methods discussed here to reduce levels in home cooked meals.

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References
1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA Action Plan for Acrylamide in Food. http://www.fda.gov/Food/
FoodborneIllnessContaminants/ChemicalContaminants/ucm053519.htm. Published March 2004. Accessed November 2015.
2. Dybing E, Farmer PB, Andersen M, et al. Human exposure and internal dose assessments of acrylamide in food.
Food Chem Toxicol. 2005;43(3):365-410. doi:10.1016/j.fct.2004.11.004.
3. Mustatea G, Popa M, Negoita M. A case study on mitigation strategies of acrylamide in bakery products. Scientific Bulletin. Series F. Biotechnologies. 2015:19:348-353.

4. Hoenicke, K., Gatermann, R., 2005, Studies on the stability of acrylamide in food during storage., Journal of
AOAC International, Vol. 88, No. 1, pp. 268-273.
5. Charles, Dan. GM Potatoes Have Arrived. But Will Anyone Buy Them? The Salt: NPR. 2015. Available at:
http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015. Accessed November 2015.
6. Halford NG, Curtis TY, Muttacucmaru N, Postles j, Elmore, SJ. The acrylamide problem: a plant and agronomic
science issue. Journal of Experimental Botany. 2012;63(8):2841-51.
7. Muttucumaru N, Powers SJ, Elmore JS, Mottram DS, Halford NG. Effects of Nitrogen and Sulfur Fertilization
on Free Amino Acids, Sugars, and Acrylamide-Forming Potential in Potato. Journal of A gricultural and Food
Chemistry. 2013;61(27):6734-6742. doi:10.1021/jf401570x.
8. Pennisi M, Malaguarnera G, Puglisi V, Vinciguerra L, Vacante M, Malaguarnera M. Neurotoxicity of Acrylamide in Exposed Workers. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2013;10(9):3843
-3854. doi:10.3390/ijerph10093843
9. C. Pelucchi, C. La Vecchia, C. Bosetti, P. Boyle, P. Boffetta. Exposure to acrylamide and human cancera review and meta-analysis of epidemiologic studies. Ann. Oncol. Off. J. Eur. Soc. Med. Oncol. ESMO, 22 (2011),
pp. 14871499
10. World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization. Health Implications of acrylamide in food.
http://www.who.int/foodsafety/publications/acrylamide-food/en/. Published 2002. Accessed November 2015.
11. Alves RC, Soares C, Casal S, Fernandes JO, Oliveira MBPP. Acrylamide in espresso coffee: Influence of species, roast degree and brew length. Food Chem. 2010;119(3):929-934.

12. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Draft Guidance for Industry: Acrylamide in Foods. http://www.fda.gov/
downloads/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/
ChemicalContaminantsMetalsNaturalToxinsPesticides/UCM374534.pdf. Published November 2013. Accessed
November 2015.