Acrylamide and furan survey published

The Food Standards Agency has published results from its latest study looking at levels of process contaminants acrylamide and furan in a range of UK foods.

The report shows an upward trend in acrylamide levels in processed cereal-based baby foods (excluding rusks), and a reduction in other products, such as pre-cooked French fries, potato products for home cooking and bread during 2007-2011. The levels of acrylamide and furan reported do not increase concern about the risk to human health and the Agency has not changed its advice to consumers.

Based on samples taken from 248 products, the survey gives a snapshot of the range of acrylamide and furan levels in UK retail foods.

The Agency advises that chips should be cooked to a light golden colour. Bread and bread products should also be toasted to the lightest colour possible. Further information on eating a balanced diet can be found at the NHS Choices link below and advice on how to minimise acrylamide levels is in our section on acrylamide.

As with previous years, the survey results for acrylamide and furan will be sent to the European Food Safety Authority for collation, trend analysis and, in the case of furan, a risk assessment.

The science behind the story: 
This is the fourth Food Surveillance Information Sheet (FSIS) published by the FSA and is part of a rolling programme, in response to European Commission recommendations, to investigate the levels of acrylamide and furan in retail food. A total of 340 analyses (248 for acrylamide; 92 for furan) were completed from November 2010 – April 2011 on 248 products representing 10 food groups, as specified by the European Commission. Further surveys to establish clearer trends will be carried out for the period 2011-2013. The FSA's rolling survey to measure acrylamide and furan in UK retail products will continue during 2012-2014. This will help the Agency refine its risk assessment, on which its consumer advice is based. Acrylamide is a chemical produced naturally in food as a result of cooking and processing at temperatures above 120°C. It is formed from a reaction between natural components in food: the amino acid asparagine, and simple sugars. It is less likely to occur in foods cooked at lower temperatures for short periods, such as boiled potatoes. Furan can be produced in food and drink when naturally occurring sugars, polyunsaturated fats and ascorbic acid (vitamin c) degrade when they are heat treated.