Acrylamide in Food

Acrylamide is a common process contaminant in food formed during the heating of starch-rich foods and is a serious concern for food business operators. Due to the large number of such foods produced and processed via heating processes, ingestion of acrylamide in food is almost unavoidable.

Acrylamide is formed as part of the "Maillard reaction", in which reducing sugars react with certain amino acids such as asparagine. This reaction is thus not only the basis for quality-giving properties such as roasted aroma and visually appealing browning, but also the cause for the formation of acrylamide. Particularly conducive to the formation of acrylamide are high temperatures of 120 °C and above, such as are common in baking, roasting, frying and deep-frying, low moisture and a high starch content in the raw material. Thus, the task for food manufacturers is to adapt processes and raw materials in such a way that the acrylamide content is reduced as much as possible while still maintaining the product-specific quality characteristics. [1]

Due to the carcinogenic potential of acrylamide, no safe consumption level can be derived. Currently, there are neither national nor European legally binding maximum levels in food. At the European level, only guideline values have been set for certain food categories, which serve as orientation for food manufacturers. The Acrylamide Regulation (EU) No. 2017/2158 also obliges food business operators to monitor acrylamide levels and take measures to reduce them. [2]

Meanwhile, in the analysis of acrylamide, the focus is not only on foods such as bread and potato products, but also on coffee, for example, as coffee beans with their high asparagine content offer an ideal prerequisite for the formation of acrylamide during coffee roasting [3]. For this reason, the magazine Öko-Test, among others, examines the popular beverage at regular intervals, as also in the current Öko-Test issue November 2021.

The Institut für Produktqualität offers analysis for acrylamide by means of HPLC-MS/MS (high-performance liquid chromatography with detection in the tandem mass spectrometer).


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[1] https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/topics/topic/acrylamide
[2] https://www.bfr.bund.de/en/a-z_index/acrylamide-129902.html
[3] https://www.krebsgesellschaft.de/onko-internetportal/basis-informationen-krebs/bewusst-leben/acrylamid-ein-krebsausloesender-stoff.html