Baby biscuits with high levels of known carcinogen found on sale in France

16 Feb 2017 Acrylamide in food

A snapshot survey of a range of biscuits and rusks for babies and infants on sale in
France shows that products with high levels of acrylamide, a known carcinogen, continue
to be placed on the market. Recently, several similar products sold in Croatia, Hungary,
Slovakia, Slovenia and Bulgaria were recalled from the market due to high levels of

A number of laboratory tests conducted on behalf of the Changing Markets Foundation show that
babies and young children continue to be exposed to food products with concerning levels of
acrylamide, at levels close and above the European benchmark. The highest acrylamide level
was found in a sample of biscuits aimed at 12-month-old babies from the Nestlé brand, which
was above the European level of 200 µg/kg and seven times higher than those products with the
lowest concentration. Two samples of similar products from the Picot and Carrefour brands were
found to have concentrations very close to the European benchmark. In recent months, similar
products sold in Croatia, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia and Bulgaria were recalled from the market
for having high levels of acrylamide [1].

Acrylamide is a carcinogenic chemical found in many food products consumed by Europeans
such as bread, coffee, biscuits, cereals, potato products and several types of baby foods.
Exposure of babies and young children to acrylamide is particularly worrying as the European
(EFSA) and the French Food Safety Authorities (ANSES) estimate it to be close to levels of
concern [2].

Under the current protocol [3], Member states have been obliged to monitor levels of acrylamide
in food products since 2007 and take action when products are found at levels higher than the
European benchmark. For biscuits and rusks for babies and young children, this has been set at
200 µg/kg, which is at the high end of concentrations observed over the years.

“It is unacceptable that even major brands do not seem to be taking full responsibility to reduce
acrylamide levels in their products ignoring the long-term health impacts these could have on
most vulnerable consumers such as babies and young children” said Véronique Moreira,
president of WECF France. “These findings highlight the urgency to put in place a robust EU
regulatory framework so that food operators make real efforts in lowering acrylamide levels
across their products.”

A draft legislative proposal on acrylamide [4] is currently being discussed by the European
Commission and Member States. This proposal fails to introduce maximum legal limits for
acrylamide even for baby food products, contrary to the approach taken on other contaminants in
EU law, and it keeps the benchmarks at very high levels compared to technically feasible
reductions observed. The vote on the draft proposal is expected in March.

“France should follow recent actions from other Member States and ensure products with high
levels of acrylamide are no longer being placed on the market, particularly as EFSA data
released to SumOfUs [5] demonstrated that sales of such products are not an isolated case”
Nabil Berbour from SumOfUs, a mobilisation movement of consumers/workers/investors whose
petition on this matter has reached over 209,000 signatures [6] “France should take due note of
the concerns raised by ANSES and put people’s health before the profit of corporations by asking
the European Commission to set ambitious legally binding levels for acrylamide in food products
as soon as possible.”

[1] Member States take action to remove baby biscuits with high levels of acrylamide from the
[2] EFSA’s scientific opinion on acrylamide in food
ANSES’ study on exposure to dangerous chemicals in children’s diet:
[3] European Commission’s Recommendation 2013/647/EU
[4] European Commission’s draft legislative proposal
[5] SumOfUs’ report on acrylamide levels found in food in the EU
[6] SumOfUs’ petition on acrylamide

About the analysis:

The samples were prepared and analysed for acrylamide by Fera Science Ltd in York (UKAS
ISO17025 accredited laboratory). The analytical method was gas chromatography−mass
Spectrometry (GC-MS), which has a reporting limit of 30 μg/kg. The samples were taken in
different retailers in Nantes in January 2017.

About WECF France

French organisation part of the WECF Network alongside with 150 member organisations and
individuals who share a common concern to promote a just and healthy planet for all, strengthen
the role of women and promote a gender and rights based approach in environment and
sustainable development policy and implementation. In order to reach its goals WECF
implements projects in partnership with local organizations in 50 countries.

About SumOfUs
SumOfUs is mobilisation movement of consumers/workers/investors who want to make big
corporations accountable. 12 million individuals have acted more than 50 million times
everywhere in the world since SumOfus was created.

Further information:
Aurèle Clémencin
Outreach and campaigns (French media)
+33 6 77 06 29 60

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