Gingerbread with high levels of known carcinogen found on sale in Germany

22 Dec 2016 Acrylamide in food

Independent testing of a range of varieties of gingerbread on sale in Germany shows that
samples with high levels of acrylamide, a known carcinogen, continue to be placed on the
market. These results come at a time, when Croatia and Hungary have recalled baby biscuits
due to high levels of acrylamide.

A snapshot survey published by campaigning organisation Changing Markets shows that food
products with high concentrations of acrylamide, at levels significantly higher than the
European benchmark, continue to be placed on the market. The maximum acrylamide level
was found in a sample of Elisen Gingerbread from Lindner, at 1522 µg/kg, fifty times higher
than those samples with the lowest concentration. This is twice as high as the maximum levels
found in a recent survey of acrylamide in gingerbread products on sale in Norway [1] and 50
percent above the EU benchmark (1000 µg/kg).

Last week Croatia and Hungary [2] recalled two batches of biscuits for children with high levels
of acrylamide at 1020 µg/kg. The sample with the highest concentration as tested by Changing
Markets shows significantly higher levels than this.

Acrylamide is a carcinogenic chemical found in many food products consumed by Europeans
such as bread, coffee, biscuits, cereals, potato products and even baby food. In 2015, EFSA
published a scientific opinion which concluded that acrylamide in food is a public health
concern. The exposure of babies and young children to acrylamide gives rise to concern,
according to EFSA and the French Food Safety Authority (ANSES). These results come at a time
when the European Commission is reviewing EU regulation on acrylamide in food.

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
acrylamide levels higher than the European benchmark, which are typically set at 90th
percentile from the observed total. For gingerbread, this has been set at 1000 µg/kg based
on 2000 samples taken over the years.

“The test results show that low acrylamide levels are very achievable, so there is no reason
why products with high acrylamide levels should still be sold, in total disregard of the longterm health impacts of the most vulnerable consumers” said Nuša Urbančič from Changing
Markets. “The current regulatory framework should be improved and the Commission must
put in place maximum limits for acrylamide at much lower levels than what we see in the
current proposal.”

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, contrary to the approach taken with 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 the first quarter of 2017.

“Germany should do what Croatia and Hungary have done and recall ginger biscuits above
the benchmark, as these may also be consumed by children” concluded Urbančič from
Changing Markets. “Controls by national authorities should also be improved, as the recent
report by SumOfUs [5] has shown that 12 percent of all food products placed on the market
between 2007 and 2014 had unacceptably high levels of acrylamide.”

Notes to editors:

[1] Survey of acrylamide in gingerbread consumed in Norway
[2] Croatia and Hungary recall baby food biscuits with high levels of acrylamide RASFF
[3] European Commission’s Recommendation 2013/647/EU
[4] European Commission’s draft proposal
[5] SumOfUs’ report on acrylamide levels found in the EU

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 Berlin in mid-November.

Nuša Urbančič
CEO, Changing Markets
+44 7479 015909

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