Acrylamide in the spotlight

Acrylamide is this week’s hot topic, with industry experts, including the Food Standards Agency (FSA) warning over its dangerous effects.

Acrylamide is a chemical that is naturally created when starch-rich foods are roasted, baked, fried and grilled at particularly high temperatures over a long period of time. Those which contain the highest levels are cooked at temperatures over 120°C and include cakes and biscuits, cereals, potato chips/crisps, coffee beans and bread/toast/bagels.

Discussed in The Morning Advertiser and The BBC, when food is cooked, the naturally present water, sugar and amino acids combine to produce colours, aromas, flavour and the browning of food. This process is called the Maillard reaction and produces acrylamide.

How high is the risk?

Animal research has revealed that acrylamide is cancer-causing and damaging to the nervous and reproductive systems. Scientists speculate the same biological effects in humans, however there is no evidence of a link – as of yet. It’s unclear how much acrylamide can be tolerated, but that we are consuming too high levels of it.

The FSA mission statement says:

‘Reducing the amount of acrylamide in food that people eat is not a simple task as it forms in so many different foods that are cooked or heated. The FSA is committed to ensuring the amount of acrylamide in food is as low as possible because it has been identified as a concern to health by experts including the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the UK’s Committee on Toxicity (COT). Acrylamide in food may contribute to lifetime risk of developing cancer.’

What can I do to reduce levels?

Although there is still a large amount of uncertainty of the risks, the Government and food industry play a significant role in reducing levels of consumption.

Just this week, the FSA and Olympian Denise Lewis have joined forces and launched a campaign ‘Go for Gold’. The clue is in the name – cook your food to a light and golden colour. The campaign aims to raise public awareness and offer cooking advice to reduce levels.

Our partner the British Hospitality Association (BHA) and the FSA are also set to launch new industry guidance this summer which will be available for free.

Although it is not possible for businesses to self-test for the chemical, new legislation is on the horizon that will require food businesses to reduce levels as much as practically possible.

Our Senior Environmental Health Practitioner and Audit Team Leader, Vicki Wood says: ‘Essentially, don’t burn your food. The slower and hotter the process, the larger the amounts of acrylamide. If you have a healthy lifestyle and don’t smoke, then your risk of cancer is already reduced. Controlling your acrylamide intake is just a small stepping stone in maintaining a healthy life’.

Acrylamide is a natural by-product of cooking and has always been present. We’re not suggesting you cut these ‘guilty pleasures’ out of your diets. Just a few simple changes to your cooking can reduce your acrylamide intake significantly…

1. Effective communication
2. Fry foods at lower temperatures
3. Decrease cooking times when possible
4. Avoid overheating oils and fats
5. Change frying oils and fats more regularly
6. Cook foods to a light colour
7. Avoid frying till brown/dark
8. Follow manufacturers’ instructions for frying or oven-heating carefully
9. Don’t bruise potatoes – this increases the starch
10. Par-boiling foods – this can reduce acrylamide by 50%
11. Don’t store potatoes and parsnips in the fridge (FSA) – store above 6°C

Would you like further advice or support to reduce your risks from acrylamide or other Food Safety issues? Shield Safety Group employs the largest team of Environmental Health Practitioners in the country and are ready to help. Our Policies cover all of the important Food Safety concerns, such as allergens, E. coli and acrylamide. For any further advice, head to our Helpline and our team are ready to help. Contact us on 0203 740 3744 or visit our website.

The information contained in this blog article has been created for marketing purposes and is not official guidance and should not be used as a substitute for official Food Safety, Fire Safety and Health & Safety advice. Shield Safety take no responsibility if the information in the blog article is used to form part of a safety management system or used to form part of any legal or regulatory compliance for your business. For official guidance and to engage with Shield Safety services please do call our team on 020 3740 3744 or email

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