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Solutions to acrylamide?


When scientists from Sweden reported earlier this year that several ordinary foodstuffs could contain high levels of acrylamide - a potentially cancer-causing chemical - governments, food associations and food manufacturers drew a sharp intake of breath.

So great was the concern that the World Health Organisation hastily organised a meeting of leading food safety experts to assess the then current scientific understanding of acrylamide formation in food, and to draw up an action plan to tackle the issue.

Calling for more research, WTO meeting participant Dr Dietal Harndt said at the time: "Only 200 analyses have been completed worldwide. It is clear that further research is needed - we do not have enough information about high temperatures and it is critical to carry out more research."

The Swedish research had suggested that acrylamide is likely to be formed in a wide range of foods when they are fried or baked. Last week reported a step forward towards acrylamide enlightenment when we reported that new research from food giant Proctor & Gamble had shed some light on the formation of acrylamide in foods.

According to the P&G research the potential carcinogen could also be present in foods as diverse as roasted asparagus, banana chips, toasted English muffins, taco shells and pretzels.

P&G reported that the naturally occurring amino acid asparagine, coupled with a carbonyl source (such as reducing sugars like dextrose) is a key precursor to acrylamide in food products.

"We are the first to conclusively demonstrate via isotope labelling experiments that the acrylamide molecule indeed arises directly from asparagine and further demonstrated the exact part of the asparagine molecule that ultimately becomes acrylamide," said Dr Robert A. Sanders, P&G Research Fellow.

This new knowledge suggests that there are other routes that are significantly more effective at reducing acrylamide in foods rather than simply reducing frying temperature.

This week we learn that a recent study conducted at the department of food technology at Helsinki University revealed a significant reduction in acrylamide level using snacks (potato snacks/crisps) treated with Flavomare preparation in spice form, supplied by Finnish company Selako .

According to a statement from the company this week, the results were analysed in two stages, in two different laboratories. The laboratories used analytical methods that were slightly different to one another. The results of the analysis in both laboratories, claims Selako, showed that Flavomare preparation in spice form was able to significantly reduce the level of acrylamide in the active group, when compared to the control group.

National veterinary and food research institute in Finland (EELA) performed the analysis from fresh potato snacks and the artificially aged potato snacks were analysed by Analycen laboratories in Lidköping, Sweden.

The company added that Flavomare preparation in spice form does not require special machinery and can be used to replace salt in foodstuffs.

The world of science has yet to grasp the intricacies associated with acrylamide and solutions to food safety fears will not arrive overnight. But Selako maintains that they may already have the solution - although more research is required, results from the company are encouraging and suggest that current alternatives could exist to tackle the issue of acrylamide.

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