Food safety chiefs have said the latest results of its acrylamide testing have not increased its concern about the risk to human health.

The Food Standards Agency tested 271 products between January and December 2017, including breads, biscuits, cakes, crisps and breakfast cereals, as part of an ongoing programme in response to European Commission (EC) recommendations to member states to investigate the levels of acrylamide.

Acrylamide is a chemical created when many foods, particularly starchy foods such as potatoes and bread, are cooked for long periods at high temperatures. Although evidence from human studies is inconclusive, scientific consensus is that acrylamide in food has the potential to cause cancer in humans.

Test results were compared against an ‘indicative value’ set by the EC, which is designed to indicate the need for an investigation. These are not a maximum level and are not used for enforcement purposes.

In the 2017 results, 15 products were found to have exceeded the indicative value, including a Hovis Granary loaf with added wheat flakes, and two products classified as biscuits and wafers.

“Where an acrylamide level has exceeded an indicative value, the FSA will ask the relevant local authority to investigate with the food business operator what action may have already been taken to limit acrylamide formation and to see whether further action is possible,” stated the FSA in its survey report. “However, an exceedance does not constitute an identified health risk or legislative non-compliance and no enforcement action is required.”

Hovis told British Baker it was committed to ensuring all its products were safe and met the highest quality standards. 

“We have made great progress in reducing the level of acrylamide in our Granary bread. All bread leaving our bakeries is now well below the benchmark level stated in the new Commission Regulation (EU) 2017/2158,” added a spokesperson.

Meanwhile, the FSA said the levels of acrylamide found in the testing from January to December 2017 had not increased its concern about the risk to human health.

“We will not be changing our advice to consumers,” it added.

New EU laws came into force from this April to establish best practice, mitigation measures and benchmark levels for the reduction of acrylamide in food. Under the regulations, food business are expected to:

  • Be aware of acrylamide as a food safety hazard and have a general understanding of how acrylamide is formed in the food they produce
  • Take necessary steps to mitigate acrylamide formation in the food they produce, adopting the relevant measures as part of their food safety management procedures
  • Undertake sampling and analysis where appropriate to monitor the levels of acrylamide in their products
  • Keep appropriate records of the mitigation measures undertaken, together with sampling plans and results of any testing

British Baker subscribers can read about the impact the new laws could have on bakers in a column by legal expert John Mitchell here.