In 2002, Swedish researchers published a study showing that the chemical compound acrylamide forms naturally when certain foods are heated to a high temperature; for example, during baking, deep frying and roasting. As acrylamide potentially increases the risk of cancer and, under pressure from the authorities and international bodies, many food producers launched extensive efforts to understand and control the formation of acrylamide in their production processes.
The industry’s measures were implemented on a voluntary basis until 2017, when a European Commission regulation with mandatory measures was adopted. The main purpose of the trend study is to conduct long-term monitoring of how successful producers are at reducing acrylamide levels in food.
The study includes samples from seven different types of foodstuffs that between them account for most of the acrylamide we ingest: French fries, crisps, coffee, bread, crispbread, biscuits and breakfast cereals. A total of 132 samples are collected from shops and restaurants in each round of sampling. Acrylamide levels are analysed at the Swedish Food Agency using liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry/mass spectrometry.
During the period 2005-2011, two rounds of sampling and analysis were performed each year, after which sampling is performed every three to four years.
The Swedish Food Agency’s trend study is unique in terms of being conducted so systematically and over such a long period of time. The study provides important data on how well the industry’s voluntary measures have worked and, in its continuation, offers the opportunity to asses the effectiveness of the new European Commission regulation.
Thus far, results have been provided to the European Commission to aid their work to address the acrylamide issue, as well as to the risk assessments performed by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA). An interim summary of results for the years 2005-2013 is available in the Swedish Food Agency Report 25/2013.
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Head of Unit Natural Toxins and Metals