High levels of carcinogenic chemical, acrylamide, found in potato crisps from major UK brands and retailers

4 Apr 2017 Acrylamide in food

Nearly one in five [17 per cent] potato crisp varieties sampled from major retail food outlets
in the UK have high levels of acrylamide, a known carcinogen, reveals independent testing.

The study, conducted by the Changing Markets Foundation, reviewed 92 potato snacks from
major UK snack brands and own-brand super market crisps.

A sample of sweet potato crisps from Tyrrells had the highest level of acrylamide at 2483.6
µg/kg; these levels are 2.5-times above the European benchmark and over 83-times higher
than products with the lowest concentration.

The presence of acrylamide in food is considered a public health concern by the European
Food Safety Authority (EFSA) as it increases the risk of developing cancer, and young
children are the most vulnerable [1]. Moreover, a recent study from the UK Food Standards
Agency (FSA) concluded that people in the UK currently consume higher levels of the
chemical, acrylamide, than is desirable and identified fried potatoes as a major contributor
to acrylamide exposure [2].

In total, sixteen samples exceeded the recommended EU benchmark (1000 µg/kg), with
supermarket own brand products (12 samples) performing significantly worse than major
snack brands (4 samples). The worst performing supermarket brands were Morrisons and
ALDI, with three products above the benchmark each.

Thirty-one samples were above the lower EU benchmark (750 µg/kg) that will likely become
part of new regulation.

Today’s findings come just a few months after the FSA published the results from its own
monitoring showing 13 products exceeding the recommended acrylamide benchmarks.
Products sampled from Seabrook, ALDI and ASDA brands have been found to exceed such
benchmarks in both studies [3].

Nusa Urbancic from Changing Markets, said “The results published today reveal that several
companies found to exceed dangerous acrylamide levels by the FSA haven’t done anything to
address this problem. Seabrook, ALDI and ASDA continue to place on the market crisps with
high levels of this carcinogen. This clearly points to the failure of self-regulation by industry
and weak enforcement by the FSA.”

The presence of acrylamide, which is formed when starchy foods are heated up, can be
significantly minimised by food business operators through a variety of measures [4], as
seen with samples with low levels of acrylamide.

Nevertheless, many food operators are still unaware of acrylamide or unwilling to take
measures to reduce the levels due to a lack of mandatory legal limits [5].

In response to this, a legislative proposal on acrylamide in food [6] is currently being
discussed by the European Commission and Member States and a vote is expected in June.
This proposal has been heavily criticised by food safety and consumer protection groups
because it fails to introduce legally binding maximum limits for acrylamide, which is the
approach taken on other contaminants in EU law.

The weak legislative proposal will prolong the status quo, where companies can continue to
sell their products even when these are found to have high levels of acrylamide. However,
the European Commission has recently announced that it intends to introduce tougher
measures on certain products in the future [7].

“European legislators cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the wealth of data showing that
high levels of acrylamide in every day products like crisps and baby foods continue to put
consumers’ health at risk” concluded Urbancic. “Industrially prepared food is the biggest
source of consumer exposure to this carcinogen and only immediate introduction of legally
binding limits will guarantee that industry does its job and that consumers don’t have to
worry about acrylamide in their food.”

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 across London in January 2017.

For media inquiries:
Bethan Halls – Bethan.halls@greenhousepr.co.uk

Notes to editors:

[1] EFSA’s scientific opinion on acrylamide in food
[2] FSA’s Total Diet Study
[3] https://www.food.gov.uk/sites/default/files/acrylamide-furan-report.pdf
[4] Food and Drink Europe’s Acrylamide’s Toolbox
[5] https://www.efsa.europa.eu/sites/default/files/event/documentset/141210-p13.pdf
[6] European Commission’s draft legislative proposal
[7] http://www.foodnavigator.com/Policy/Commission-to-set-maximum-acrylamidelevels-in-ready-to-eat-foods

You might also like...