Olive Oil, the best option to adopt the new European Regulation on Acrylamide

Olive Oil, the best option to adopt the new European Regulation on Acrylamide

2018/12/04 - Yesterday came into force a package of measures approved by the European Parliament (EP) for the food industry to reduce in its products the component named Acrylamide, whose carcinogenic effects have been demonstrated in several animal studies. The use of olive oil for cooking and frying, defined by a higher boiling point, is ideal to adapt to this European legislation.

Acrylamide is an organic compound of low molecular weight and very soluble in water that is formed from asparagine (an amino acid) and reducing sugars, when food is subjected to temperatures above 120° C and with low humidity.

It is formed mainly in foods rich in carbohydrates, baked and fried. Its carcinogenic nature and its presence in tobacco smoke and some foods, is not new, in fact the Swedish Health Agency already warned about it in 2002.

Many manufacturers have adopted measures to reduce the presence of this substance since 2013, when the first recommendation of the European Commission (EC) was launched. Subsequently, in 2015, the Scientific Technical Commission for Contaminants for the Food Chain of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) adopted an opinion on its presence in food, which showed its genotoxic, neurotoxic and carcinogenic character in experiments with rats, but without sufficient evidence of its effects in humans. The EC warned that children are the most vulnerable population, due to their high exposure to acrylamide and their lower body weight.

The foods with the highest proportion of acrylamide are breakfast cereals, fried potatoes, other fried tubers (sweet potatoes, carrots or beets), snacks, coffee, soluble coffee, coffee substitutes (based on chicory and/or cereals), sweet cookies, salted cookies, puff pastry, precooked food (croquettes, pasties, etc.), infant cereals, baby food, pastries, cereal bars, cones, waffles, bread, toast, bagels, biscuits, roasted nuts, dried fruits (prunes, dried apricots or raisins), sweets, etc.

As he creative dietitian of the Coherent Diet and PhD in Pharmacy, Amil López Viéitez explains, "the minimum consumption for acrylamide to increase the risk of cancer, without being a direct consequence, is 0.17 mg. per kg. of weight. A person weighing 80 kilos, for example, should ingest 13.6 mg. per day (13,600 micrograms/day). The average intake of coffee in Europe already accounts for one third of this amount. On average, Spaniards are exposed to 0.53 micrograms/kg., according to a study by the University of Valencia, half comes from chips, a quarter of coffee and the other quarter of cookies or biscuits.

Reducing the risk without losing quality or flavor
Acrylamide levels can be reduced by applying good hygiene practices and the principles of hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP). The measures proposed by the panel of experts of the EFSA are in the line with selecting ingredients with less amount of starch and of asparagine, improving the storage and cooking processes.

At the consumer level, to reduce the intake of this substance Amil López Viéitez highlights, among other things, the use of olive oil for cooking and frying, since it has a higher boiling point than sunflower and allows frying at a lower temperature. It is very important, according to the doctor, to respect the times and temperature indicated by the manufacturer for frying or baking food and avoid the intake of very toasted or crispy foods. Another recommendation is not to overfill the fryer or the pan, to prevent the oil from getting too hot. This will also ensure that the food absorbs less oil.

At an industrial level, the new Regulation (EU) 2017/2158 establishes specific levels of acrylamide for each group of products and, in this respect, companies whose products exceed the maximum levels established should adopt measures to reduce them, modifying the formulation or the ingredients, the production processes or any other identified conditioner, without affecting the quality and microbial safety of the food, nor its sensory characteristics.

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