Acrylamide: What is the substance and how can you reduce absorption

Acrylamide: What is the substance and how can you reduce absorption

Author: Ann-Cathrin Witte | Category: Food and Drinks | November 18, 2023

Acrylamide: What is the substance and how can its absorption be reduced

Photo: Nova África/Shutterstock; Elena Kabenkina/Shutterstock; New Africa/Shutterstock; Avocado_studio/Shutterstock

Acrylamide forms naturally when many starchy foods are baked, roasted and fried. The problem: The substance poses a potential health risk. However, with some simple measures, your intake can at least be reduced.

  • Acrylamide is a chemical produced when starchy foods, such as French fries or French fries, are prepared at high temperatures.
  • The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has classified the substance as potentially carcinogenic since 2015.
  • The absorption of acrylamide can be reduced by several measures. This also includes a balanced diet.

A bag of chips is often part of an evening watching TV on the couch. And a visit to the pool is even better with a portion of fries with mayonnaise or ketchup. We know these things aren’t necessarily healthy for us. If you think about a lot of fat and salt, you’re almost right. Unfortunately, we also consume a lot of acrylamide.

What is acrylamide?

Acrylamide, what is it anyway? The term refers to a chemical substance that can form in carbohydrate-rich foods when they are heated to high temperatures, for example when roasting, frying or roasting. It is formed from sugars such as glucose and fructose, as well as the amino acid asparagine, which react with each other at temperatures above 120 degrees Celsius. From temperatures of 170 to 180 degrees Celsius, the formation of acrylamide increases dramatically.

Acrylamide is also found in coffee

Acrylamide is also found in coffee (Photo: Empresa V/Shutterstock)

What foods is acrylamide found in?

Acrylamide is therefore often found in fried or fried potato products such as French fries, French fries or croquettes, but also in grain products such as toast, crispbread or biscuits. But acrylamide can also be found in coffee and nuts. For most adults, according to the consumer advice center, daily coffee is one of the main sources of ingestion of the substance. ÖKO-TEST also repeatedly finds acrylamide in food tests.

Here’s an overview:

  • Potato Chips: In a total of eight of the 20 bags of potato chips, the laboratory we hired found what we consider to be elevated or significantly elevated levels of acrylamide. This particularly affected organic products. Not a single product was free from acrylamide.

  • We also criticized acrylamide in six products in the rice cake test.
  • Cornflakes: 15 out of 48 breakfast cereals contain acrylamide. In our opinion, the values ​​in three of these products are even “significantly increased”.

  • Baking mixes: Almost all baking mixes in the test resulted in bread containing acrylamide when baked. Often only in small quantities, but in eight cases the content was “increased” to “strongly increased” according to ÖKO-TEST criteria.

  • In our ground coffee test, acrylamide levels in 13 of the 20 types of coffee were classified as “high.”
  • Crispbread: In our opinion, around three-quarters of the crispbreads tested were too contaminated with acrylamide.

This is why acrylamide is criticized

But why do we criticize the material? Acrylamide is considered a possible carcinogen. This was the verdict European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in a 2015 scientific report. The metabolic product is of particular concern Glycidamidewhich is created when acrylamide is broken down in our gastrointestinal tract. In animal studies, glycidamide has been shown to be the most likely cause of tumors and genetic mutations.

Based on these results, EFSA concludes that there is a risk of acrylamide in food cannot provide a tolerable daily intake. This, in turn, is concerning because acrylamide occurs naturally in a variety of everyday foods. This poses a risk, especially for children, as they may absorb larger amounts of acrylamide more quickly based on their body weight.

legal framework

The EFSA assessment was followed in 2018 EU Regulation to acrylamide in food. It is aimed at companies such as food manufacturers, bakeries, restaurants and cafeterias. The regulation requires these companies to take measures to reduce the acrylamide content in their products.

The three most important measures are:

  1. If possible, types of raw materials with few reducing sugars should be used in production. This means, for example, that manufacturers of potato chip products ensure that, when choosing potato types, they contain the lowest possible amounts of sugar and asparagine.

  2. Products must be prepared at the lowest possible temperatures. For example, in the case of French fries or “other sliced, fried or oven-baked potato/potato products”, the EU regulation recommends a frying temperature of 160-175 degrees Celsius and an oven temperature of 180-220 degrees Celsius.

  3. The food produced should only be browned to the extent necessary. The ideal tan is defined in the legal text as “golden yellow”.

Furthermore, the EU regulation also sets guideline values ​​for the acrylamide content of certain foods, which must be regularly checked by companies themselves by independent authorities.

Acrylamide is formed when sugar and amino acids react with each other at high temperatures.

Acrylamide is formed when sugar and amino acids react with each other at high temperatures (Photo: rfranca/Shutterstock)

This is what ÖKO-TEST means

Taking health risks into account, ÖKO-TEST is also committed to reducing the acrylamide content in food. Dr. Jürgen Steinert, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of ÖKO-TEST explains:

“Since 2002, when Swedish scientists detected acrylamide in several foods, ÖKO-TEST has repeatedly analyzed products for this pollutant. Even though the formation of this mutagenic and possibly carcinogenic substance cannot be completely prevented when roasting, roasting or frying, it applies the following: “The objective is to minimize the contamination of food with this toxic substance. The minimization measures and guidance values ​​that came into force in 2018 under the EU regulation are moving in the right direction – and are having an effect; acrylamide levels are falling. However, legally binding limit values ​​remain desirable.”

How can acrylamide be avoided?

However, acrylamide is not only found in ready-made foods, but can also be produced at home by baking and frying in your own kitchen. To keep acrylamide absorption as low as possible, the following measures are recommended:

  1. Rarely consume highly contaminated products, such as French fries or chips.
  2. Rely on cooking methods like boiling, steaming, or sautéing. To date, no acrylamide has been detected in foods prepared in this way.
  3. Foods such as toast, baked rolls, etc. they are “golden” rather than “charred”: This means that they should only be heated for as long as necessary and as low as possible.
  4. Parchment paper or baking mats prevent food from browning too much on baking sheets and in cake pans.
  5. The same applies to homemade cookies: lightly baked cookies contain less acrylamide than well-browned cookies.
  6. An egg or egg yolk in the dough reduces the formation of acrylamide. However, ingredients such as deer antler salt or roasted almonds can increase the acrylamide content of cookies.
  7. Do not store potatoes in the refrigerator. Storing them in the refrigerator creates more sugar in the potatoes, which in turn can lead to increased acrylamide formation during preparation.

You can find more tips on the consumer advice center website, among others.


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