Acrylamide reduction legislation will come into force next April

By Nikkie Sutton

- Last updated on GMT

Cancer-causing chemical: roast potatoes are just one food product at risk of containing acrylamide
Cancer-causing chemical: roast potatoes are just one food product at risk of containing acrylamide

Related tags Food safety Roast potatoes Food Food standards agency

Food businesses in the UK such as pubs will have to put practical steps in place to manage acrylamide -
a potential carcinogen - within their food safety management systems under new EU legislation.

The legislation, which will come into force from April 2018, describes practical measures based upon best practice guidance developed by the food industry to mitigate acrylamide formation in a range of foods.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Food Standards Scotland are working with the British Hospitality Association (BHA) and other key stakeholders to develop simple guidance to help catering and foodservice businesses, including pubs, comply with the new rules.

Legal obligation

Guidelines to help understanding of the enforcement of the legislation will also be available in the new year.

Reduction of acrylamide becoming a legal obligation​ for food businesses was first announced in February this year.

The FSA issued a warning about the possibility of cancer in pub chips and roast potatoes in January.​ It warned that raw potatoes should not be stored in the fridge if they are intended for roasting or frying.

The reason for this was that it may lead to the formation of more free sugars that can increase acrylamide levels especially if the potatoes are then fried, roasted or baked. Raw potatoes should ideally be stored in a dark, cool place at temperatures above 6°C, it said.

Golden yellow colour

It also said: “As a general rule of thumb, aim for a golden yellow colour or light when frying, baking, toasting or roasting starchy foods like potatoes, root vegetables and bread.”

The European Food Safety Authority described acrylamide as a chemical that naturally forms in starchy food products, during everyday high-temperature cooking.

The chemical process that causes this is known as the Maillard reaction and it browns food and affects its taste – in short, burnt potato products, such as chips, croquettes, roast potatoes and toast are deemed a risk.

Potato crisps and coffee substitutes contain relatively high levels, but their overall contribution to dietary exposure is limited based on a normal, varied diet.

BHA food safety advisor Lisa Ackerley said: "The BHA has been supporting businesses to continue to proactively and voluntarily put simple measures in place to minimise the amount of acrylamide in food, and we are now leading the development of an industry guide, together with FSA and other stakeholders.

"The guide will be available free of charge from early next year, in preparation for the April implementation date. FSA are also developing guidance for enforcement officers on these regulations, and the BHA are working closely with FSA to ensure guidance is reasonable and in line with that issued to industry. The BHA is working with Cornwall Council on the guidance so that BHA members can have the assurance of a Primary Authority.”

 Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “We are in dialogue with the FSA and other trade body partners to ensure that sector guidance is clear, realistic and imposes the minimum burden on eating and drinking out venues while safeguarding the identified health risks.”

“The report accompanying the announcement illustrates how the food industry, including eating out businesses across the UK, has made great strides in improving food safety for consumers. Our members take this issue very seriously and the report states that the industry has already developed best practice in this area that helps safeguard consumers.

“The report also acknowledges that the inconsistency of how food is cooked in the home presents a greater risk and that is where the FSA should focus its efforts. The majority of food is prepared and eaten in the home by untrained consumers, rather than by skilled and diligent chefs working in pubs, restaurants and other eating out venues.”

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