Cancer-causing chemical found in a third of biscuits tested by European consumer groups

The Maltese Consumer Association joins other European consumer groups in calling for stricter obligatory standards on the chemical acrylamide, which occurs in foods that are cooked at very high temperatures

Acrylamide forms mostly on plant-based foods that are fried, baked and roasted at high temperatures
Acrylamide forms mostly on plant-based foods that are fried, baked and roasted at high temperatures

High levels of cancer-causing acrylamide were detected in a third of biscuit products tested by consumer groups in 10 EU states, the Maltese Consumer Association has warned.

Acrylamide is a naturally occurring chemical in vegetable foods and coffee that are roasted, fried or baked at temperatures above 120°C. Laboratory tests found that acrylamide ups the risk of cancer in animals.

Tests on food products such as biscuits and crisps conducted by European consumer groups have now revealed that in several products the amount of acrylamide detected was above recommended doses.

Food tests showed that a third of biscuits contained higher doses of acrylamide than recommended, as did 13% of wafers and biscuits specifically aimed for children.

Vegetable crisps were found to have double the levels of acrylamide than other crisps.

The Maltese Consumer Association has joined calls for the European Commission to ensure standards setting acrylamide levels be obligatory and not voluntary. It also called for higher standards and for these to be applicable to a wider selection of food products.

It asked the Maltese food and health authorities to test products in Malta to ensure greater safeguards for consumers.

The association called on Maltese MEPs to apply pressure at a European level for greater consumer protection.

Understanding acrylamide

What is acrylamide?

  • Acrylamide is a chemical that can form in some foods during high-temperature cooking processes, such as frying, roasting, and baking. Boiling and steaming do not typically form acrylamide.
  • It forms from naturally-occurring sugars and an amino acid present in food. It does not come from food packaging or the environment.

How is it a health risk?

  • Acrylamide caused cancer in animals in studies where animals were exposed to acrylamide at very high doses. In 2010, the Joint Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) concluded that acrylamide is a human health concern, and suggested additional long-term studies.

In which foods is acrylamide found?

  • Acrylamide is found mainly in foods made from plants, such as potato products, grain products, or coffee. Acrylamide does not form, or forms at lower levels, in dairy, meat, and fish products. Generally, acrylamide is more likely to accumulate when cooking is done for longer periods or at higher temperatures.

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