On July 19, 2017, members of the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed voted in favor of the European Commission’s proposal aiming to reduce acrylamide in foodstuffs.
Draft Commission Regulation envisages establishment of mitigation measures and benchmark levels for the reduction of acrylamide levels in food. Mitigation measures include the whole farm to fork spectrum. The effectiveness of the mitigation measures will be evaluated by use of the benchmark levels. Benchmark levels will be specific for each food group, ranging from 150 µg/kg to 500 µg/kg. The proposal requires food manufacturers to take actions, “in proportion to their size and nature”, in order to reduce the acrylamide presence in food.
The Council and the European Parliament now have three months to study the text and raise objections. Afterwards, the final adoption by European Commission will take place, and this is foreseen for the beginning of 2018.
Acrylamide is a widely known chemical, used in some industries, usually in the form of polyacrylamide. However, it is known to be carcinogenic, genotoxic and possibly neurotoxic. From 2002, when the presence of acrylamide in food was discovered, until today, significant body of research has mostly explained its formation and impacts. Acrylamide formation typically takes place during high temperature (>120ºC) and low moisture processing such as frying, baking, roasting, toasting and grilling. Foodstuffs often containing acrylamide include potato chips, crisps, bakeries and coffee.
In 2015, using the latest scientific evidence, EFSA issued an opinion indicating the existing risks and calling for action.
With the binding regulation on the horizon, the interest of stakeholders rises. Already in 2013, FoodDrinkEurope developed “Acrylamide Toolbox”, aiming to provide authorities, manufacturers and other relevant bodies with brief descriptions of intervention steps. These steps should help with prevention and reduction of acrylamide formation in specific manufacturing processes and products. However, commenting the draft, the organization noted that the benchmark levels are low and based on unrepresentative data.
In its comment, Copa-Cogeca (European Farmers - European Agri-Cooperatives) invited the authorities to re-examine the view of the draft on the nitrogen fertilizers and plant protection products.
On the other hand, BEUC (The European Consumer Organization) welcomes the Commission’s initiative, pointing on the positive examples of the manufacturers that have already reduced the acrylamide levels in the foods they produce. In addition, BEUC calls for the introduction of the binding limits as the enforcement tool to ensure consumer protection.
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Article by NevenaVujosevic and Dusan Ristic, Food Regulatory Experts @ Selerant.