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IP/03/348

Brussels, 10 March 2003

Commission initiative makes new research database on acrylamide in food available online

As part of efforts to clarify potential public health risks and identify how to reduce levels of acrylamide in food, the European Commission has made a new research database available online. The database was established in close co-operation with the European Food Safety Authority and compiles research efforts in the EU on several topics related to the issue of acrylamide in food. Acrylamide is a chemical present in food as a result of cooking practices, whose possible risk to public health is unclear.

David Byrne, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, underlined the importance of research efforts: "We must look closely at the issue of acrylamide in food to evaluate the potential threat to public health and determine which actions might need to be taken. It is important that all researchers have a global picture of what efforts are undertaken. This database will help provide this picture."

Acrylamide is a chemical present in food as a result of cooking practices, some of which have been used for many years, even centuries. Finding ways to reduce the levels is not straightforward. In particular, starchy foods have been shown to be affected, including for example potato and cereal products that have been deep-fried, roasted or baked at high temperatures. The possible risk to public health is unclear.

Background

In April 2002, the Swedish Authorities highlighted the presence of acrylamide in food. The Commission urgently consulted its Scientific Committee on Food (SCF) to assess the possible risk to public health. The SCF reported its opinion on 3 July 2002, concluding that levels of this potential carcinogen should be reduced by as much as reasonably possible, although more data were needed to help achieve reductions and to help clarify the safety implications.

To help identify what can be done to reduce levels of acrylamide in food, to better understand the chemical effects of processing and cooking and to help clarify the possible risk to public health, the Commission is co-ordinating several initiatives. The Directorate General for Health and Consumer protection has prepared a database on research activities, in close collaboration with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). The Commission's Joint Research Centre is co-ordinating work on analytical methods and collecting data. Acrylamide has also been included under a topic in the 6th Framework Programme for long-term research.

Database available online

The database prepared by the Directorate General for Health and Consumer Protection and EFSA helps to provide a more complete picture of the developing work on acrylamide in food. The information will be used to assist in the investigation of acrylamide and to help ensure that effective and complementary progress is made. The database will be updated as new information becomes available. It comprises ten separate areas of study:

  • Levels of acrylamide in food

  • Dietary exposure to acrylamide in food

  • Ways to reduce levels of acrylamide in food

  • Mechanisms of formation

  • Bioavailability of acrylamide in food

  • Toxicology/carcinogenicity

  • Biomarkers

  • Epidemiology

  • Methods of analysis

  • International activities

The database is available at the following website:

http://ec.europa.eu/food/fs/sfp/fcr/acrylamide/acryl_database_en.html

More information on acrylamide in food:

http://ec.europa.eu/food/fs/sfp/fcr/acrylamide/acryl_index_en.html


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