"L-cysteine appeared to reduce the acrylamide content in the most effective way, with a reduction of about 92 per cent, followed by L-lysine (39 per cent) and glycine (24 per cent)," wrote lead author Frederic Mestdagh from Ghent University in the journal Food Chemistry.
The study taps into the trend of new ways to reduce acrylamide in foods, as the industry aims to improve the public perception about food safety, which has suffered in recent years.
Acrylamide is a carcinogen that is created when starchy foods are baked, roasted, fried or toasted. It first hit the headlines in 2002, when scientists at the Swedish Food Administration first reported unexpectedly high levels of acrylamide, found to cause cancer in laboratory rats, in carbohydrate-rich foods.
Since the Swedish discovery a global effort has been underway to amass data about this chemical. More than 200 research projects have been initiated around the world, and their findings co-ordinated by national governments, the EU and the United Nations.
The Belgian researchers used a model potato powder system, and tested the efficacy of a range of food additives on acrylamide formation, including organic acids, free amino acids and salts.
"Since most of these additives are already commonly used in the food industry, these components can be more easily applied on industrial scale to mitigate the formation of acrylamide in fried potato products," they added.
Mestdagh and co-workers report that the organic acids led to a significant reduction in acrylamide content, but this was due predominantly to a lowering of the pH. Specifically, acrylamide levels were reduced by 78, 46 and 62 per cent for citric, acetic, and L-lactic acid, respectively.
For the amino acids glycine, L-lysine and L-cysteine reductions were also recorded, with the greatest observed for the last amino acid. Moreover, reductions were achieved without changes to the pH level.
Salts containing calcium and magnesium ions also induced a reduction in acrylamide levels in the food matrix, but this was also associated with pH changes.
This area of study is ongoing for the Ghent researchers, with an evaluation of the approaches planned in a real food system, namely potato crisps.
"In addition, the final product quality of these treated foodstuffs will be assessed by means of sensory analysis of potato crisps," they concluded.
Others have reported similar results concerning the potential of common additives to reduce or prevent acrylamide formation. Indeed, Turkish researchers published a study in the journal Food Chemistry (doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2006.08.011) reporting that the additive could reduce acrylamide formation in potato chips and French fries by about 95 per cent.
Moreover, Chinese researchers from Jinan University tested the food additives ferulic acid, catechin, calcium chloride, sodium bisulfite, and l-cysteine on inhibition of acrylamide formation (Innovative Food Science & Emerging Technologies, doi:10.1016/j.ifset.2007.06.008).
Source: Food Chemistry
1 March 2008, Volume 107, Issue 1, Pages 26-31
"Impact of additives to lower the formation of acrylamide in a potato model system through pH reduction and other mechanisms"
Authors: F. Mestdagh, J. Maertens, T. Cucu, K. Delporte, C. Van Peteghem, B. De Meulenaer