On 21 November 2017 the European Commission published an official list of practical measures to limit the content of acrylamide in products.
These regulations require manufacturers to lower the level of acrylamide in their production and maintain strict controls on the acrylamide level. The measures are especially relevant for makers of snacks, crisps, bakery and confectionary products, and for manufacturers of baby food.
Already in the summer of 2015 the European Food Safety Authority issued an alert that products such as french fries, chips, biscuits, and coffee contain the carcinogen acrylamide. In Canada acrylamide has been added to the list of toxic substances, and in the USA food industry enterprises are legally bound to lower the acrylamide content in their production.
Two years later the European Commission published an official list of practical measures to limit the content of acrylamide in products. These measures must be implemented by all manufacturers, starting from 11 April 2018.
Earlier in 2017 a dispute had broken out between Belgium and the EU. In June, Belgium was upset, as the regulating of acrylamide content would ban the country’s traditional french fries. The recipe for Belgian fried potatoes involved twice submerging the potatoes in a deep fryer in order to reach a crunchy crust. Although this dispute was resolved, the European Commission has no intention of lessening its demands on manufacturers.
What is acrylamide?
Acrylamide is a carcinogen. It forms in foods high in carbohydrates when ingredients are fried at temperatures above 120°C. Frying, baking, roasting and grilling – all these lead to the unpleasant consequence that acrylamide forms.
Studies have shown that high consumption of acrylamide increases a person’s chances of developing cancer. This has been known since 2002. Since that time, studies have been carried out to find ways to lower the content of this carcinogen.
Over these last 15 years of research, scientists have proven the link between acrylamide and cancer and the European Union has adopted measures obliging manufacturers to monitor the level of acrylamide in their products. Systematic inspections will identify violators and, probably, fines will be imposed on them.
What kind of food manufacturers should consider improving their technology?
The European Commission’s provision impacts mainly manufacturers of french fries and potato chips.
The following products will be carefully inspected to check their acrylamide content:
- fried snacks
- breakfast cereals (excluding raw grains)
- small bakery products: cookies, biscuits, croutons, bread sticks, rolls, corn, waffles, gingerbread, crackers, crispbread and bread substitutes
- coffee: roasted and dissoluble
- any other fried products, especially those rich in carbohydrates
How acrylamide can be controlled
Blanching: As one of the ways to lower the acrylamide level in vegetable chips, the European Commission recommends blanching. This is a process of brief heat treatment of products with hot water or using direct steam.
Blanching of various vegetables is used to eliminate bacteria, to remove starch, and to preserve vegetables’ nutritional qualities and vitamins. Preliminary blanching of products before frying reduces the level of acrylamide that forms in potato snacks – the potatoes will absorb less oil.
New technologies: One of the newest technological solutions that stops acrylamide from forming is vacuum processing. Through the use of vacuum technology, frying can take place at low temperatures, up to 120°C, and this means that acrylamide will not form in the product.
The research and development wing of EMA Europe has developed a solution for producing healthy and safe snacks. One of the advantages of products made in a vacuum fryer is the low oil content (up to 7%) with the items maintaining a natural colour, taste, and smell. This also saves on production costs.
Investing in vacuum-frying technology gives manufacturers a number of cost-saving advantages, says the company.
Users will save on oil that will stay fresh longer, won’t burn, and won’t have to be changed so often. Plus fewer flavour additives and enhancers are required because the chips will maintain their natural properties. There will also be energy saved on heating the frying oil.
Investing in new technology will allow companies to make products that meet the European Commission’s new demands.
Products made with vacuum frying technology are highly competitive, says EMA Europe:
- they have a low content of oil, up to 7%
- the products will have an attractive colour, closer to its natural one and won’t darken nor will black spots form on its surface
- the oil will not turn rancid or give the product an unpleasant smell or taste
- the product’s nutritional properties will be preserved
- no acrylamide – the level of this substance will be on average 94% less than in products made with traditional fryers
- no carcinogens
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