DSM has had a “lot of interest” from US food manufacturers in its PreventASe acrylamide-reduction enzyme, but admitted many firms are still waiting to see if regulators will take action on the suspected carcinogen before parting with hard cash.
Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA.com at the launch of DSM’s new innovation center in Parsippany, New Jersey, last week, DSM Food Specialties North America president Gregory Kesel said: “We do have customers here in the US that are already using PreventASe and a lot of others have tested it.
“But many customers are waiting until the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) publishes some guidance on this, or sets upper limits.”
Acrylamide and the law
Despite a large amount of research since acrylamide first hit the headlines in 2002, scientists have not yet given regulators clear direction on whether maximum limits should be set, or what they should be.
Last year’s report on dietary acrylamide from JECFA (Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives) concluded there was insufficient data to conclusively state whether or not dietary acrylamide at levels found in the normal human diet posed a health risk.
The FDA, meanwhile, was still in the information-gathering stage on acrylamide, and has not yet instituted any regulatory action, said Kesel.
However, the European Chemical Agency recently added acrylamide to its list of ‘substances of very high concern’, while legal action in California under Proposition 65 [under which foods containing more that a set level of acrylamide must include a warning label] against snackfood companies had also focused people’s minds, he said.
Technical services manager José Dias Peres added: “Many customers have tested PreventASe and are ready to go, but they are waiting to see what happens on a regulatory front first.”
Acrylamide reduction and industry
Acrylamide is a suspected carcinogen created when asparagine, an amino acid found naturally in cereals, reacts with reducing sugars via the Maillard reaction when products are fried, baked or roasted.
The food industry has explored a range of strategies to tackle it, from changing cooking processes to reducing asparagine at source through crop breeding. However, the most established solution is using the enzyme asparaginase to convert asparagine into aspartate (another naturally occurring amino acid) so that asparagine is not available to form acrylamide when starchy products are cooked.
The two key products in this market are Acrylaway from Novozymes, which is derived from Aspergillus oryzae, and DSM’s PreventASe, which is produced from Aspergillus niger.
Both are claimed to help manufacturers of dough-based products such as biscuits, bread, crackers and tortillas reduce acrylamide formation by up to 90% without affecting taste, colour or texture.
But potato chips and fries are more challenging, said Kesel, as while sliced/diced potatoes could be rinsed in asparaginase before frying, in intact potato matrices it was harder for the enzyme to reach the asparagine inside the cells.
Asparagine mitigation market
Canadian firm Functional Technologies, meanwhile, uses yeasts for asparagine mitigation. The firm, which recently struck a deal with an undisclosed multinational to evaluate its products in an industrial setting, claims they are easier for manufacturers to use than enzymes.
Speaking to our sister title FoodManufacture.co.uk last year, a spokesman said: “The yeast cells are much easier to detect during processing with simple procedures, one of the drawbacks of enzyme treatments. For example, in processing cut potatoes, producers currently do not have a rapid-detection method to determine the level of enzyme remaining in the dip, how much has been picked up by the product, or how much is still needed to treat subsequent batches.
“Therefore, it can be problematic to manage the enzyme process for asparagine mitigation with a high degree of confidence. In contrast, our analytical technologies enable us to know exactly how much yeast remains and how efficacious we have been in asparagine reduction.”