Acrylamide in food: Unraveling exposure and risk

March 29, 2004


ANAHEIM, Calif., March 29 -- Two years ago, Swedish scientists first reported unexpectedly high levels of the chemical acrylamide, a probable human carcinogen, in carbohydrate-rich foods, including potato chips, French fries, and some breads. Since then, researchers have quickly launched dozens of acrylamide studies worldwide. How does acrylamide form? Which foods carry the highest levels? Does acrylamide pose a significant cancer risk? At the 227th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society, the ACS Division of Agricultural and Food Chemistry will host many presentations that address these questions and more, during a three-day symposium -- "Chemistry and Safety of Acrylamide in Food." A newsbriefing on acrylamide in food is scheduled for Monday, March 29th, at noon. Among the highlights:

Monday, March 29

Rating cancer risk: Lorelei Mucci, ScD, of Harvard University's School of Public Health, and colleagues are examining the risk of cancer among people who consume foods with acrylamide. So far, the team has conducted four studies within Swedish populations. Data from two of the studies found no link between dietary acrylamide and risk of bladder, kidney or colorectal cancer. Two larger ongoing studies, each of more than 50,000 women, are examining colorectal and breast cancer risk. Epidemiology's ability to address acrylamide concerns will be discussed. (AGFD 37, Monday, March 29, 11:05, Hilton Anaheim, Pacific Ballroom A.)

Putting potato chips to the test: Hubert Vesper, Ph.D., of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and colleagues have found in a small pilot study that people who snack heavily on potato chips may experience an increase in acrylamide exposure. These results will be verified in a larger feeding study, in which acrylamide biomarkers - in particular, hemoglobin adducts of acrylamide and its primary metabolite glycidamide - will be measured after people eat food containing naturally occurring acrylamide. (AGFD 81, Monday, March 29, 4:35 p.m., Hilton Anaheim, Pacific Ballroom A.)

Tuesday, March 30

Acrylamide on the bakery shelf: Peter Sadd, Ph.D., Colin Hamlet, Ph.D., and colleagues at RHM Technology in High Wycombe, United Kingdom, have found a surprising lack of acrylamide in some bakery products. Contrary to popular assumption, certain richly flavored and colored foods, such as fruitcake and crumpets, reveal low levels of acrylamide. An ongoing study, funded by the U.K. Food Standards Agency, measures acrylamide in a wide range of cereal products and explores the biochemical basis behind its variation. (AGFD 100, Tuesday, March 30, 11:15 a.m., Hilton Anaheim, Pacific Ballroom A.)

Heated food: how acrylamide forms: David Zyzak, Ph.D., and colleagues at Procter and Gamble are investigating the biochemistry behind acrylamide formation in heated foods. They have found evidence that the chemical emerges from the reaction of the amino acid asparagine with carbonyl compounds at typical cooking temperatures. Studies using the enzyme asparaginase have been shown to significantly reduce acrylamide levels in lab models of heated foods. (AGFD 109, Tuesday, March 30, 2:10 p.m., Hilton Anaheim, Pacific Ballroom A.)

Hot chemistry: how acrylamide forms: Varoujan Yaylayan, Ph.D., and colleagues at McGill University are investigating the chemistry behind acrylamide in heated foods. Researchers have generally pointed to asparagine as the major amino acid that yields acrylamide during certain cooking conditions. However, the McGill team identified other amino acids that may, under the right conditions, also produce acrylamide or its derivatives. Studies may lead to strategies for lowering acrylamide in heated foods. (This paper, AGFD 110, will be presented at 2:35 p.m., Tuesday, March 30, Hilton Anaheim, Pacific Ballroom A.)

Wednesday, March 31

Cooking up acrylamide: Lauren Jackson, Ph.D., and colleagues at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's National Center for Food Safety and Technology have found that cooking conditions influence acrylamide levels. Their experiments suggest that cooking time and temperature - as well as surface browning and other variables - can boost the acrylamide content of foods. More work is needed to find practical methods of lowering acrylamide when cooking. (AGFD 125, Wednesday, March 31, 11 a.m., Hilton Anaheim, Pacific Ballroom A.)

American Chemical Society

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