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Cancer-Causing Acrylamide Gets FDA Guidelines, Sort of


The FDA has released a draft guidance on acrylamide, the controversial chemical found in approximately 40 percent of calories consumed in the U.S. and suspected of having carcinogen risks.

While not suggesting a maximum recommended level for acrylamide, Food Navigator reports that the agency is instead "recommending that manufacturers be aware of acrylamide levels in their products in order to determine the best methods for reduction."

The recommendations are for raw materials and procession procedures used on potatoes, cereals and coffee, all of which are at high risk for acrylamide, which occurs when cooking at high temperatures (grilling, roasting, frying, etc). Acrylamide is a result of the maillard reaction—where sugars react with amino acids at high temperatures—and gives these foods their distinct flavors and brown color.

Acrylamide became a concern after a 2002 study in Sweden noted its connection with an increased risk of cancer. The European Food Safety Authority recognized it as a possible carcinogen in 2005, and in 2010, the World Health Organization and the FAO also recognized it as a health risk.

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From the Organic Authority Files

"It's a laundry list of recommendations that are pretty softly worded," Ricardo Carvajal, FTC and FDA regulatory counsel at Hyman, Phelps and McNamara told Food Navigator about the draft guidance. "If you look at spud-to-table continuum, there are 30 things the industry could do to minimize formation of acrylamide. But which ones really matter? Are there one or two things companies focus on? And what's the return on investment here? That part isn't very clear."

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