Acrylamide is a suspected carcinogen that is formed during by heat-induced reaction between sugar and an amino acid called asparagine. Known as the Maillard reaction, this process is responsible for the brown colour and tasty flavour of baked, fried and toasted foods. The problem was discovered in 2002 by scientists at the Swedish Food Administration, and the Confederation of the Food and Drink Industries of the EU (CIAA) first drew up its acrylamide toolbox in 2005 to bring together industry understanding and intervention approaches that, in some cases are already being used by manufacturers. The aim is to help manufacturers, including those with limited research and development resources, see which of the possible approaches could be suited to their products and processes. It updates it at intervals when new useful new methods are devised and new scientific discoveries made. The latest update, unveiled this week, includes the feasibility of the enzyme asparaginase in production of biscuits on an industrial scale. This is an area that has seen much heated activity this year as both DSM Food Specialities and Novozymes have commercial products aimed at this area. Both DSM's Preventase and Novozyme's Acrylaway are asparaginases, but they stem from different production strains: Novozyme's from Aspergillus oryzae and DSM's from Aspergillus niger. The two enzymes are understood to share the same aim - that is, to convert free asparagine into aspartic acid, another animo acid that does not form acrylamide. The nutritional properties are unaffected, and so are the browning and taste aspects. The competition between the companies has been keen, and this underlines the importance of the area. Any issue that could potentially threaten food safety could ultimately do immeasurable damage to a brand - and ultimately a whole food category. DSM claimed to be the first to have a product on the market that made use of its enzyme, when a German company launches a Christmas biscuit product with 70 per cent less acrylamide in October. DSM has also said it has recently completed a successful trial with a "top five biscuit manufacturer", which is expected to market consumer products using Preventase before the end of 2007. "Further commercial applications are expected in the coming months with many other commercial trials successfully completed," said the company. Another addition to the guide includes a secion on gycidamide formation in food, citing recent findings of very low amounts of glycidamide formed via fatty acid hydroperoxides. Glycidamide is the genotoxic metabolite of acrylamide. The guide cites research indicating that the epoxidation of acrylamide by fatty acid hydroperoxides - formed during lipid peroxidation - could be another pathway for the interactions of acrylamide with food constituents. "Based on this preliminary work, the potential burden of glycidamide via food appears negligible," the CIAA stated, citing research presented in August 2007. The handbook also notes the developments by scientists at the University of Leeds of a kinetic model to predict acrylamide formation under different processing conditions. The model will be used as an "industry toolkit" to mitigate acrylamide in foods such as cereal based products and potatoes, and would be integrated into the handbook once validation work has been completed, the CIAA stated. Processors would then be able to use the model to adjust their processors according to the predictive method. The handbook has also be reorganised to more clearly discern processing methods tested at laboratory or pilot scale and those that have been assessed in industrial trials. To avoid confusion, a separate table has been included that lists only those tools that were found by manufacturers to work in their industrial settings and may be applied either singly or in combination to mitigate acrylamide in commercial products, the CIAA stated. A new sub-section on regulatory compliance lists new potential ingredients or processing aids that need to undergo regulatory approval first. The sub section includes any health and safety considerations associated with proposed methods. A separate section also analyses risks and benefits of various methods, and provides links to recent publications assessing such methods. Other key changes include a link to new research published this month by the EU-funded Heat-generated Food Toxicants (Heatox) project. In a final report issued last week, the Heatox project collected additional advice for those manufacturing potato, cereal and coffee products.