Acrylamide forms naturally during the cooking process when starchy foods are baked, fried or toasted at high temperatures. It is formed by a reaction known as the Maillard reaction, in which sugar reacts with an amino acid called asparagine.
This latest research, conducted by scientists at the University of Ghent in Belgium, found that it is possible to predict the sensitivity of different potato batches to acrylamide formation, allowing manufacturers to either reject a batch for processing, adapt their processing conditions, or pre-treat the potatoes prior to par-frying.
“Owing to the impact of final frying on acrylamide formation, appropriate selection criteria of the raw material combined with more informative advice given to consumers and catering industry may contribute to safer French fries,” the study’s authors wrote.
The researchers examined sugar content in different potato varieties, assessed the potatoes’ color after blanching and frying, and compared these parameters to acrylamide content.
They found that there was a stronger correlation between color and acrylamide content than there was for sugar content.
Furthermore, they wrote: “For implementation within the food industry, a color parameter as an acrylamide predictor in raw material is more practical than analyzing sugar content.”
They concluded that from a food safety perspective, “improved quality control could be adopted for incoming potatoes to guarantee reduced acrylamide content in the final product.”
However, at a company level such checks would require extra resources and could therefore impact total production cost, they wrote, which might call into question the cost-effectiveness of implementing such tools.
Concerns were first raised about acrylamide in food back in 2002, when Swedish researchers found unexpectedly high levels of the chemical in carbohydrate-rich foods, and published evidence linking acrylamide with cancer in lab rats. Since then, international assessment and further research, although inconclusive, has generally supported the view that acrylamide in food is cause for concern.
Source: Food Additives & Contaminants: Part A
First published online: 03 February 2010
“Effective quality control of incoming potatoes as an acrylamide mitigation strategy for the French fries industry”
Authors: Vinci, Raquel Medeiros, Mestdagh, Frédéric, De Muer, Nathalie, Van Peteghem, Carlos and De Meulenaer, Bruno