EU-Logo Acrylamide: Regulation upcoming?

Acrylamide: Regulation upcoming?

EFSA called acrylamide a "concern"

Latest risk assessment from 2015

In 2015 EFSA published the latest risk assessment on acrylamide in foodstuffs. Acrylamide is called a “concern” (p. 1) because of the small difference between the dose that leads to higher cancer rates in animals and the human exposure (Margin of Exposure = MOE). There is no other carcinogen in foods with such a small MOE. In addition the Committee of Toxicity at the British FSA pointed out in 2016, that the acrylamide contents are too high in the childrens’ diet and called it again a concern. Since nearly 15 years it has been known that acrylamide occurs in several foods and in spite of the fact that reduction is possible, and there is no proof that a reduction of acrylamide levels has been realized (latest: EFSA: Scientific Opinion on acrylamide in food, 2015.)

Regulation draft alredy leaked

Obviously the Commission is going to intervene. The regulation has not been published yet but core elements were already leaked:

  1. Acrylamide levels for several products are suggested.
  2. No consequences, if the levels are exceeded.

Criticism from consumer advocates

Consumer advocates criticize the regulation as ineffective because:

  1. The acrylamide levels are too high, because they exceed the values suggested from Germany, Denmark and EFSA. Denmark, for example, suggests a maximum level of 750 μg/kg for crisps and 50 μg/kg for wheat bread. The corresponding levels in the regulation are 1000 μg/kg resp. 80 μg/kg.
  2. The regulation is non-binding. However, the voluntary self-committment of the food industry has not yet led to an effect.

In particular the consumer advocates are afraid that the regulation could prevent the member states from introducing more effective measures. The argumentation is convincing because:

  1. Already in 2003 the minimum for crisps in Germany was 102 μg/kg. In the following years the minimum level was 5 resp. 60 μg/kg. This means that it is possible to produce crisps with very low acrylamide levels. According to the latest monitoring data in Germany the minmum levels were under 100 μg/kg. Only 1,6 % of the samples exceeded the 1000 μg/kg threshold. Obviously the Commission is going to present an uncritical acrylamide level. Even if it was binding, it could not lead to a change.
  2. Voluntary self-committments of the industry are common, but not expedient. This management tool was very popular in the 1990’s. In the meantime it turned out that the promises were scarcely ever be kept.
  3. In Germany voluntary self-committments of the industry in the context of consumer protection policy are still common, in spite of the fact that there is no proof that it leads to behavioural changes of the Industry.

New information about the regulation shall be released in November.

Dr. Sabine Bonneck