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Reducing Acrylamide at Home

Home cooking can generate unpredictable levels of acrylamide, making it difficult to anticipate the actual intake from foods. However, research has identified numerous methods to help reduce acrylamide formation in many common foods cooked at home.

The following recommendations have been posted on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) website. Additional guidelines can be found in the European Union-funded “Heat-Generated Food Toxicants: Identification, Characterization, and Risk Minimization” (HEATOX) Project report, of which acrylamide is the main focus. The Project’s findings are sourced from leading authorities on acrylamide and acrylamide risk-mitigation techniques.

Acrylamide Reduction Advice

As a general rule, acrylamide forms mainly in starch-rich foods that are heated to produce a fairly dry and brown or yellow surface. Acrylamide can be found in many common foods prepared by frying, baking, grilling, toasting or roasting, including:

  • Potatoes and french fries;
  • Vegetables that are grilled or fried;
  • Cereals, bread and other bakery products; and
  • Coffee.

The potential for acrylamide formation in a food is related to how much amino acid – namely asparagine – and reducing sugars are naturally present in the food. These levels may vary significantly between different plant varieties and their conditions during growth.

Below are general recommendations that concur with many widely referenced guidelines for acrylamide reduction in processed and home cooked foods.

Process

  • Baking: Prolonged yeast-fermentation reduces the content of asparagine in dough of oven-baked bread and thereby reduces the formation of acrylamide.
  • Roasting: Acrylamide forms in coffee when coffee beans are roasted, not when coffee is brewed at home or in a restaurant. Thus far, scientists have not found an effective way of reducing acrylamide formation in coffee without affecting the taste of the end product.
  • Frying: This produces the highest amount of acrylamide. To reduce acrylamide levels when frying, fry at lower temperatures and avoid heavy crisping or burning.
  • Baked Potato Grilling: Consumers are advised to frequently turn food during grilling to avoid charring. If charring does occur, remove charred portions before eating.
  • Boiling/microwaving: Potatoes that have been boiled or microwaved with the skin on (“microwaved baked potatoes”) do not contain high levels of acrylamide.

Duration

Generally, more acrylamide accumulates when cooking is done for longer periods or at higher temperatures.

  • Bread Toasting bread to a light brown color, rather than a dark brown color, lowers the amount of acrylamide. Very brown areas should be avoided, since they typically contain higher levels of acrylamide.
  • Cooking cut potato products, such as frozen french fries or potato slices, to a golden yellow color rather than a brown color helps reduce acrylamide formation. Brown areas tend to contain more acrylamide.

Storage

Storing potatoes in the refrigerator can increase acrylamide during cooking. Therefore, consumers are advised to store potatoes outside the refrigerator, preferably in a dark, cool place, such as a closet or a pantry.