Government funding will speed take-up of acrylamide technology, firm

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Potato Bread

Funding to the tune of $2.5m from a Canadian government scheme indicates the commercialisation potential of acrylamide-preventing yeast technology and will also serve to broaden its scope, claims its developer.

Vancouver based Functional Technologies said the application by its subsidiary Phyterra Yeast for the funding under the Canadian Atlantic Innovation Fund (AIF) was supported by leading industrial potato processors who have expressed “keen interest”​ in the company’s yeast based acrylamide reduction method.

Acrylamide is a neurotoxic compound, and probable carcinogen. It is found at significantly higher levels in carbohydrate-rich foods including potato chips, French fries and crisp bread. The substance has been shown to originate from the Maillard reaction of the amino acid asparagines with reducing sugars.

Asparagine metabolised

The Canadian company explained that its proprietary yeast technology can metabolize asparagine faster than regular yeast through its enhancement of the yeast cell’s innate ability to degrade asparagine and reduce its presence prior to the heating process.

“In bread-making and any product in which baker’s yeast is used currently, our enhanced yeast would simply replace traditional yeast, greatly reducing the amount of acrylamide in bread and other baked goods,”​ stated the firm.

While adoption of the yeast system is expected to be relatively seamless in the production of bread and other baked dough products, the developer said the funding will allow it “develop, validate, and maximize”​ the technology for potato foods and snacks.

Trials with European manufacturers in the baked goods and snack foods sectors with the acrylamide-preventing technology, revealed the Canadian developer, have demonstrated greater than 90 per cent acrylamide reduction. The company said the results provide “proof-of-concept validation and a strong basis for translating the platform over to industrial potato-processing protocols.”

Don M. Lay, Functional Technologies VP, communications and corporate development, told our sister site in November last year that the the firm is seeking commercial partners on a per sector basis due to different production requirements, and there had been strong EU interest in the yeast.

He said: “We have had substantial interest from both European yeast producers as well as European food companies that are interested in end products or testing potential solutions. We are now just commencing trials with a large UK baking company.”

Prop 65 extension

California’s Proposition 65, a state law requiring businesses to warn citizens of exposures to officially listed toxic substances with the goal to reduce or eliminate exposures to those substances, has recognized acrylamide as a chemical known to cause cancer. Last month, it linked the substance to developmental and reproductive toxicity as well.

And Functional Technologies cites a number of recently filed lawsuits by California’s State Attorney Office and several private-interest groups claiming a number of US food manufacturers as being in violation of that law, arguing that they should label products containing high levels of acrylamide, as well as implement reduction policies.

Other approaches

Food manufacturers have been working with regulatory authorities and competitors to develop new methods to reduce the formation of acrylamide in products since it was first discovered in 2002 such as changing the pH to alter the reaction products, cutting heating temperatures and times, using an enzyme to convert asparagines into an impotent form and binding asparagines to make it inaccessible.

This publication recently reported on a study from India, published in Food Chemistry​ (10.1016/j.foodchem.2011.02.034) which found that acrylamide ontent was nearly 7 per cent lower in potato chips made from irradiated potatoes stored at 14°C and 4°C than corresponding non-irradiated controls.


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