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Operators warned to minimise 'cancer-causing' chemical in cooking

By Daniel Woolfson , 11-Jan-2017
Last updated on 11-Jan-2017 at 11:52 GMT2017-01-11T11:52:20Z

Acrylamide: chemical can increase risk of cancer for consumers
Acrylamide: chemical can increase risk of cancer for consumers

Food safety experts have warned operators to minimise the amount of a potentially cancer-causing chemical that occurs in food cooked for long periods at high temperatures.

The British Hospitality Association (BHA) and Food Standards Agency (FSA) announced yesterday (10 January) the launch of new industry guidance, which will be available free this summer, to help operators lower acrylamide levels in their food.

Acrylamide is created when foods – particularly starchy products such as bread and potatoes – are cooked at a high temperature for an extended period of time.

Risk of cancer

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has previously said that acrylamide can increase the risk of cancer for consumers of all ages with other effects understood to include damage to the nervous and reproductive systems.

Dr Lisa Ackerley, food safety adviser to the BHA, said: “The BHA is dedicated to making the industry guide to compliance with acrylamide regulations practical and easy to use.

“It is aimed at helping food businesses such as pubs and restaurants, and has been designed to help small businesses in particular.”

Legislation

Incoming legislation is expected to require food businesses to reduce acrylamide levels to as low as is reasonably achievable, although operators will not be forced to test foods themselves.

Some of the steps businesses can take now to reduce acrylamide include cooking foods to light rather than dark colours, frying foods at lower temperatures, decreasing cooking times where possible, avoiding overheating oils and fats, and changing frying oils and fats more regularly.

The BHA also recommends storing potatoes outside of the fridge, avoiding bruised potatoes and blanching them before frying.