The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) announced this week it is confirming previous studies that suggest acrylamide in food increases the risk of developing cancer.
The authority released a draft scientific opinion on acrylamide in food developed by its Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM).
“Acrylamide consumed orally is absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract, distributed to all organs and extensively metabolized,” said Diane Benford, chair of the CONTAM panel. “Glycidamide, one of the main metabolites from this process, is the most likely cause of the gene mutations and tumors seen in animal studies. So far, human studies on occupational and dietary exposure to acrylamide have provided limited and inconsistent evidence of increased risk of developing cancer.”
According to the authority, acrylamide is a chemical compound that typically forms from sugars and amino acids in starchy food products during high-temperature cooking, including frying, baking and roasting. It was first detected in foods in April 2002, though likely to have always been present.
Common sources of acrylamide include coffee, fried potato products, biscuits, crackers and crisp breads, soft bread and certain baby foods.
The panel also considered the harmful effects of acrylamide on the nervous system, which it deemed to not be a concern based on current exposure levels.
Members of the scientific community and other interested parties can comment on the opinion through Sept. 15. The deadline for final adoption of the opinion is June 2015.
The opinion includes recommendations for future research, and once finalized, will support possible measures to further reduce consumer exposure.