New EU legislation designed to reduce acrylamide in food

Bowl of crips Print publication


Acrylamide is a substance which forms naturally during high temperature and low moisture cooking and processing, such as frying, roasting and baking. It is particularly prevalent in processed foods that are high in starch such as potato based products, root vegetables and cereal based products.

Laboratory tests have shown that acrylamide in the diet causes cancer in animals and while evidence from human studies is inconclusive, scientists agree that acrylamide in food has the potential to cause cancer in humans as well.

Whilst it is not possible to eliminate acrylamide completely from foods, it is possible to take steps to try and ensure that acrylamide levels are as low as reasonably possible. This is the reasoning behind the new Commission Regulation (EU) 2017/2158 which came into force this month.

As from 11 April 2018, all food business operators (FBOs) are now required to put in place simple practical steps to manage acrylamide within their food safety management systems. They are expected to:

  • be aware of acrylamide as a food safety hazard and have a general understanding of how acrylamide is formed in the food they produce
  • take the necessary steps to mitigate acrylamide formation, adopting the relevant measures as part of their food safety management procedures
  • undertake representative sampling and analysis where appropriate to monitor the levels of acrylamide in their products
  • keep appropriate records of the mitigation measures undertaken, together with sampling plans and results.

The new legislation applies to all FBOs that produce or place on the market the following foods:

  • french fries and other deep fried products from fresh potatoes
  • potato crisps, snacks and crackers made from potato dough
  • breakfast cereals (excluding porridge)
  • cookies, biscuits, rusks, cereal bars, scones, wafers, crisp breads and other bread substitutes
  • coffee (roast and instant)
  • baby foods and processed cereal based foods intended for infants.

WM Comment

Industry guidance has been developed by various food sector organisations (for example the acrylamide tool box)  to help you navigate the new rules and in addition the Food Standards Agency is also working with key trade associations to develop a best practice guide. We will let you know when this has been published.