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EU Member States vote to reduce presence of acrylamide carcinogen in food

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EU Member States vote to reduce presence of acrylamide carcinogen in food

Coffee and toas

(BRUSSELS) - EU Member States representatives voted Wednesday to reduce the presence in food of acrylamide - designated by the EU food safety agency as a carcinogenic substance in 2015.

Once implemented, the new regulation will require that food business operators (FBOs) apply mandatory measures to reduce the presence of acrylamide, proportionate to the size and nature of their establishment.

Acrylamide is a chemical that naturally forms in starchy food products during high-temperature cooking, including frying, baking, roasting and also industrial processing, at +120°C and low moisture.

The main chemical process that causes this is known as the Maillard Reaction; it is the same reaction that 'browns' food and affects its taste. Acrylamide forms from sugars and amino acids (mainly one called asparagine) that are naturally present in many foods. Acrylamide is found in products such as potato crisps, French fries, bread, biscuits and coffee. It was first detected in foods in April 2002 although it is likely that it has been present in food since cooking began. Acrylamide also has many non-food industrial uses and is present in tobacco smoke.

The move was welcomed by Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis as an important step in protecting people's health: "The new regulation will not only help to reduce the presence of this carcinogenic substance but also will help raise awareness on how to avoid the exposure to it that oftentimes comes from home-cooking.," he said.

The text agreed today will now be sent to the Council and the European Parliament. The two institutions will have three months to examine it before final adoption by the Commission. The entry into force could be foreseen spring 2018.

The Commission is also planning to initiate discussions on additional measures, such as setting maximum levels of acrylamide in certain foods without delay once this Regulation is adopted.

The presence of acrylamide in food was initially detected in 2002 and since then research was undertaken to identify measures to reduce its presence in food. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) confirmed in 2015 that acrylamide is a carcinogenic substance and that current levels of dietary exposure to acrylamide indicate a concern with respect to the carcinogenic effects. EFSA also stated that the levels of acrylamide were not consistently decreased in recent years. In addition, the investigations performed by the Member States on the basis of the Commission Recommendation showed that the implementation by food business operators of the voluntary mitigation measures to reduce the presence varied widely.

Text of the draft proposal

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