Acrylamide

Acrylamide

Acrylamide is present in food following formation from the naturally present substances free asparagine (amino acid) and sugars during high temperature processing, such as frying, roasting and baking.

The presence of acrylamide in food was detected in 2002 and since then research was undertaken to identify measures to reduce the presence of acrylamide in food, FoodDrinkEurope developed a “toolbox” (last update: May 2019) and the Commission issued Recommendations on monitoring and investigations into increased levels of acrylamide.

The Commission has organised on 13 and 14 January 2014 a workshop on acrylamide at which every sector was asked to present in detail how the FDE-toolbox is implemented in practice in the production process and consumer organisations were asked to present their initiatives to make consumers aware of the importance of good cooking practices to keep acrylamide levels in home prepared foods as low as possible. Detailed report of the workshop

EFSA adopted, in early June 2015, a scientific opinion on acrylamide in food. EFSA confirms that acrylamide is a carcinogenic substance and that current levels of dietary exposure to acrylamide indicate a concern with respect to the carcinogenic effects. EFSA stated that the levels of acrylamide were not consistently decreased in recent years. The main contributors to the exposure are potato-based products, cereal based products and coffee (and coffee substitutes).

The investigations performed by the Member States in application of a Commission Recommendation showed that the implementation by food business operators of mitigation measures to reduce the presence of acrylamide is very variable from no measures taken at all to correct application of mitigation measures. 

Following the EFSA opinion, discussions with the competent authorities of the Member States have immediately started to determine appropriate regulatory measures to reduce the presence of acrylamide in food. The starting point for the discussion was that the regulatory measures must ensure a high level of human health protection and they have to be enforceable, feasible and credible for an effective reduction of the presence of acrylamide in food.

Commission Regulation (EU) 2017/2158 establishing mitigation measures and benchmark levels for the reduction of the presence of acrylamide in food has been adopted in November 2017 and entered into force in April 2018.

The Regulation provides for mandatory application by all concerned food business operators of mitigation measures to reduce the presence acrylamide in food. The mitigation measures to be applied take into account the size and the nature of establishment. Food business operators are obliged to monitor the effectiveness of the mitigation measures to reduce the presence of acrylamide by sampling and analysis of their production, demonstrating that the levels of acrylamide are below the set benchmark levels

A guidance document on the implementation of Commission Regulation has been elaborated with the aim to ensure harmonised application and enforcement across the EU.

Short extracts of the toolbox have been developed in form of sector specific brochures. These brochures are designed to help food business operators to implement those items of the "toolbox" that are relevant for their sector. These brochures are currently only available in English but shall shortly become available in all 23 Union languages.

There are insufficient data available on the presence of acrylamide in certain foods falling within the scope of Regulation (EU) 2158/2017 and in foods not falling within the scope of Regulation (EU) 2158/2017, but which might contain significant levels of acrylamide and/or could be relevant contributors to the dietary exposure to acrylamide. Commission Recommendation (EU) 2019/1888 of 7 November 2019 on the monitoring of the presence of acrylamide in certain foods recommends to competent authorities and food business operators to monitor the presence of acrylamide in such food in view of the adoption of possible risk management measures, which should complement those already provided by Regulation 2158/2017.

The setting of maximum levels for acrylamide in certain foods complementary to measures provided by the Regulation (EU) 2017/2158 is currently under consideration. Currently maximum levels for acrylamide in processed cereal-based foods for infants and young children are under discussion. The discussion on the setting of maximum levels of acrylamide in other foods will be initiated.