Acrylamide, who was she?Even the less informed have now learned that it is a toxic substance that is formed during high-temperature cooking (frying in the first place, but also oven and grill) of foods containing starch. Since, in 2002, a group of Swedish researchers warned for the first time against the danger of eating French fries, the EU has started monitoring the levels of this substance in 22 groups of products on sale in EU countries. . The results are not very encouraging, as emerges from the Efsa report (the European Food Safety Authority) on the levels of acrylamide from 2007 to 2009, published just recently. A downward trend was found in only 3 food groups (crackers, baby biscuits and gingerbread), while levels have even increased in Swedish-style crackers and instant coffee. For most of the foods considered, the amount of acrylamide found was unchanged.
This means that the measures taken so far by the food industry to contain the suspect substance, the so-called “toolbox” approach, are not effective enough. In fact, these are measures left exclusively to the good will of the industries because, despite the WHO has defined acrylamide as “potentially harmful to health”, only carcinogenicity on animals has been proven, but not on humans and the European Union has not established a maximum threshold for presence in foods with a law.
The EFSA report also includes an assessment of exposure to this substance by European population groups of different ages, which were found to be roughly the same as those reported in past reports: French fries (including stick fries ), roasted coffee and soft bread have been identified as the most contributing products to acrylamide exposure in adults. The main sources of acrylamide for children and adolescents were fried potatoes, chips, cookies and soft bread. The report also contains a list of the products most at risk. It is surprising to see unsuspected foods such as coffee substitutes (based on chicory or cereals such as barley) among the main defendants.