Acrylamide is a chemical substance formed when starchy foods, such as potatoes and bread, are cooked at high temperatures (above 120°C), e.g. when fried, grilled, toasted, baked or roasted.
Acrylamide is not deliberately added to foods – it is a natural by-product of the cooking process and has always been present in our food. It is found in wide range of foods including roasted root vegetables, chips, crisps, toast, coffee, cereals and cakes.
Acrylamide is formed during high temperature cooking, when water, sugar and amino acids combine to create a food's characteristic flavour, texture, colour and smell. Long cooking times and higher temperatures form more acrylamide than short cooking times and lower temperatures.
Potential health effects of acrylamide
Laboratory tests show that acrylamide in the diet causes cancer in animals. Scientists agree that acrylamide in food has the potential to cause cancer in humans as well. It is therefore recommended that the amount of acrylamide we all consume is reduced, as a precaution.
What are food businesses required to do?
All food businesses operators (FBOs), are required to put in place simple practical steps to manage acrylamide within their food safety management systems. This ensures that acrylamide levels are as low as reasonably achievable in their food.
Regulation 2017/2158, introduced in 2018, establishes best practice, mitigation measures and benchmark levels for the reduction of the presence of acrylamide in food. Different sizes and types of food business will be required to have different level of controls.
For more guidance on managing acrylamides within food businesses please visit the Government website as well as the
What can be done to reduce acrylamide consumption at home?
To reduce your consumption of acrylamide when preparing food at home, the following steps are recommended:
- aim for a golden yellow colour or lighter when frying, baking, toasting or roasting starchy foods
- follow the cooking instructions on the pack when cooking packaged foods like chips and roast potatoes
- don’t store raw potatoes in the fridge if you intend to cook them at high temperatures, such as by roasting or frying. This is because keeping raw potatoes in the fridge can lead to the formation of more free sugars in the potatoes, which can then increase acrylamide levels.
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