Crackers, potato chips, coffee and other foods browned when fried, or roasted, have the potential to increase the risk of cancer, according to a European Union advisory authority.
Acrylamide, produced in cooking at temperatures above 150 degrees Celsius (300 Fahrenheit), may pose a particular threat to children, according to the European Food Safety Authority. The authority opened a public consultation and confirmed previous evaluations based on animal studies.
The chemical “is absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract, distributed to all organs and extensively metabolised,” Diane Benford, head of the panel on contaminants in the food chain, said.
Glycidamide, a metabolite created in the process, “is the most likely cause of the gene mutations and tumours seen in animal studies,” she said.
The agency’s stance adds to a global debate about health effects of substances created during cooking. Novozymes chief executive Peder Holk Nielsen said last year that sales to food producers of enzymes that lower levels of acrylamide in foods are “going very well.”
The authority EFSA is advocating more research.
“So far, human studies on occupational and dietary exposure to acrylamide have provided limited and inconsistent evidence of increased risk of developing cancer,” Ms Benford said.
European and national authorities are recommending a lower intake of acrylamide, the advisory group said.
It didn’t find harmful effects from the substance on the nervous system, pre-and post-natal development or male reproduction.
Scientists and others interested can submit comments on the group’s draft report until September 15, and the authority plans to adopt a final opinion by June 2015.
Meanwhile, several leading producers of crackers and cookies have been investing in enzymes used to reduce the level of toxins.
The beneficiaries include Novozymes and Royal DSM, the two main suppliers of enzymes that cut levels of acrylamide.
While a link between human cancer and acrylamide hasn’t been established, food companies such as Oreo biscuit-maker Mondelez International have used enzymes to cut levels, preempting anticipated regulatory move to introduce warnings labels.
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