Industry Best Practices
Over the years, industry has conducted significant research into the causes of acrylamide formation and explored various ways to mitigate its development in a range of foods.
One of the most promising findings to date is the use of a safe and effective food-processing enzyme called asparaginase to significantly reduce the presence of acrylamide in some foods. Regulators in the U.S., Canada and several countries around the world have approved the use of asparaginase in certain food products.
Like acrylamide, asparaginase has always been a natural part of the human food supply.
Many plants—including peppers, peas and other vegetables—produce asparaginase to help regulate levels of an amino acid called asparagine.
Researchers who study acrylamide formation in foods have found one part of that process involves the reaction of asparagine with natural reducing sugars at high temperatures (above 250 F/120 C). By lowering the amount of asparagine or reducing sugars in the ingredients, one can reduce the amount of acrylamide that forms in the final product.
Following the example set by natural processes, many manufacturers add asparaginase to select foods to reduce asparagine levels before high-temperature cooking. This method has been shown to significantly reduce the levels of acrylamide in several dough-based products made from carbohydrate-rich food ingredients.
When used as a processing aid in foods, asparaginase is used at very low concentrations and the final product contains minimal traces of the enzyme that have no effect on the human body. High temperatures during the cooking process eliminate asparaginase in much the same way that hot water destroys the enzymes in raw vegetables when they are blanched.
In Europe, a guidance document or “Toolbox” has been developed by the European food processors’ trade association (FoodDrinkEurope), in collaboration with European regulators and with input from the GMA and many of our member companies. The Toolbox highlights possible ways to reduce acrylamide in different types of products. The industry follows this guidance and has implemented many of the techniques as well as others that industry discovered through its own research. FoodDrinkEurope found, for example, that selecting potatoes with naturally low levels of sugar helps control the formation of acrylamide in potato chips when they are cooked.