EUROPE – Safe Food Advocacy Europe (SAFE), a consumer watchdog group based in Brussels, has issued a call to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to establish legally binding limits for acrylamide in foods.

This appeal comes alongside the launch of an awareness campaign aimed at highlighting the health risks associated with acrylamide and pushing the issue onto the public and political agendas.

Acrylamide, a chemical compound found in starchy, processed foods such as crisps, cookies, and breakfast cereals, has been identified as potentially neurotoxic, genotoxic, carcinogenic, and harmful to reproductive and developmental health, according to EFSA.

Research has linked acrylamide to various cancers, including breast cancer. Despite the European Commission’s recognition of the need to set maximum acrylamide levels in certain foods under EU Regulation 2017/2158, specific limits have yet to be established.

Recent testing by consumer advocacy groups revealed that one-third of biscuits and wafers exceeded acrylamide benchmark levels.

Further studies indicated that crisps made from carrots, beetroots, or parsnips contained nearly double the acrylamide levels of traditional potato crisps, challenging the perception of these alternatives as healthier options.

A 2023 study by CVUA Stuttgart found that many food products frequently surpassed acrylamide benchmarks, including French fries, potato chips, wheat-based breads, crispbread, instant coffee, gingerbread, crackers, cornflakes, and exhausted breakfast cereals.

Among these, 5-15 percent of tested products exceeded the European Commission’s acrylamide benchmarks.

Scientific literature suggests that reducing acrylamide concentrations in baked goods could be achieved by altering industry-standard methods, such as baking at lower temperatures or employing alternative baking techniques.

SAFE’s position paper outlines specific demands to EFSA, urging the definition of legally binding maximum acrylamide levels for all high-risk food categories, including potato crisps, breakfast products, and French fries.

SAFE also calls for stringent limits in baby foods, proposing a cap well below 50 micrograms per kilogram (μg/kg), with evidence suggesting achievable levels as low as 1 μg/kg.

Additionally, SAFE advocates for setting maximum acrylamide levels in biscuits and other foods intended for babies and young children below 150 μg/kg and lowering the benchmark level for breakfast cereals consumed by children under three years of age.

The watchdog group also recommends expanding the regulation to include more food categories, such as roasted nuts and vegetable crisps.

EFSA’s ongoing deliberations and future actions regarding acrylamide limits remain closely monitored by consumer groups and the public, with the health implications of this contaminant continuing to drive calls for more stringent food safety standards.

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