Acrylamide is a suspected carcinogen that occurs naturally during the cooking of starchy foods at high temperatures, by a process known as the Maillard reaction, in which sugars react with an amino acid called asparagine. The resulting acrylamide is responsible for giving many baked, roasted and fried foods their brown color and tasty flavor, such as breads, cookies, breakfast cereals, French fries, potato chips and coffee.
Functional Technologies (FTC) would not divulge the exact mechanism of action for its proprietary ‘third generation’ Acryleast baker’s yeast ingredient, Sacchromyces cerevisiae, but said it works like other baker’s yeasts to preferentially degrade asparagine, thereby preventing the production of acrylamide.
The company’s vice president of corporate development and communications Connie Chen told FoodNavigator-USA: “Although all baker’s yeast strains are capable of naturally degrading asparagine, FTC believes only its Acryleast can achieve this under most food processing conditions, regardless of the presence of other yeast nutrients, and without extended contact time. As a platform solution, this acrylamide-preventing capability can be applied to any yeast strain.”
The company said that although all of its yeast strains were effective in reducing acrylamide to undetectable levels in a variety of environments, the rate at which asparagine is broken down was about twice as fast with the new yeast. It claims that Acryleast can reduce acrylamide by more than 95% in baked and ‘non-bread-related’ products.
“In processes that currently use yeast as an ingredient, this would be a seamless exchange of one yeast strain for another. In products/applications where yeast is not commonly used, a number of possibilities exist on how to incorporate our technology into the manufacturer’s production processes,” Chen said.
In early October, Functional Technologies said it had carried out tests in confidential collaboration with food companies to test its strains in “a commercial dry mixture employed in the production of various kinds of food products.”
It said that under simulated commercial conditions, one specific variant was particularly effective, reducing asparagine to undetectable levels within an hour – half the time of the conventional processing period.
The alarm about acrylamide’s potential danger to health was first raised in 2002, when Swedish scientists found unexpectedly high levels of acrylamide in carbohydrate-rich foods, and published evidence linking it to cancer in lab rats. Since then, research has continued in the area, and industry has rallied to find ways to reduce it in foods.