Acrylamide, Commission stalls. Yet another recommendation


Acrylamide, the danger is serious and the Commission is taking – nay, losing – time. Instead of managing the risk, which is of particular importance to children, Brussels adopts a recommendation on how to continue monitoring. The fourth in 12 years. It is all very POP(Profit Over People).

Acrylamide, over 12 years of serious unresolved dangers

Acrylamide is a process contaminant that is formed in starchy foods (particularly those containing asparagine and other precursors thereof) during cooking at high temperatures (>120 °C). In the 1990s, the IARC(International Agency for the Research on Cancer), WHO’s agency for cancer research, had listed this substance as a potential carcinogen.

By 2002, EFSA(European Food Safety Authority) had identified and consideredacrylamide as dangerous to human health. But it was not until 2007 that the European Commission adopted the first recommendation to initiate risk assessment. In 2010 the second, in 2013 the third. (1)

In 2015, EFSA finally published a scientific opinion where it highlighted the genotoxicity and carcinogenicity of the contaminant. And it took another two years after the Commission published EU Regulation 2017/1258 ‘establishing mitigation measures and reference levels for the reduction of acrylamide in food‘. Effective 11.4.18.

Acrylamide, still ‘assessing’ instead of managing risk

In 2019 AltroConsumo published a report where it highlighted the persistence of the public health problem. Following analysis of some 70 of the most widely sold risky food products in Italy, where threshold values were also exceeded on foods intended for younger children. Preventing such risks moreover, as we have reported, is simple as well as necessary.

For at least 12 years, the Commission has had compelling evidence about the widespread exposure of European consumers-and children, exponentially-to a carcinogenic and mutagenic substance that is present in a great many commonly used foods. The successive European Commissioners, together with the heads of the cabinet and their top executives, are thus responsible for the occurrence of an untold number of oncological diseases, especially childhood ones.

European Commission and Big Food, the responsibilities on childhood cancers

They should have fulfilled their duties to ensure public health, with special attention to vulnerable groups of consumers. Based on the requirements of the General Food Law (EC reg. 178/02). They should have imposed mandatory compliance with the established thresholds on operators. Prescribing the adoption of corrective measures (commercial recall, notification of health authorities, public recall) if they are exceeded.

Instead, they served
Big Food
, prioritizing the need of industrial giants to maintain business as usual. Without imposing any rush in changing raw materials and processes, redesigning products, adapting or replacing machinery. Their omissions and delays have certainly cost an untold number of lives, especially young people. Since the causal link between risk exposure and disease occurrence is certain.

They trust in impunity and the cover-up of their crimes by co-respondents and their lobbyists. In this case as in those of palm oil-where even the risk of childhood cancers and genetic mutations has been blatantly overlooked-and hazelnuts with mycotoxins. (2) But class actions, as it turns out, will soon find expression in Italy as well.

Acrylamide, the latest ‘recommendation’. Foods to ‘monitor’

European Commission Recommendation 7.11.19 updates the continuous monitoring measures on the presence and amount of acrylamide in certain foods. (3) Referring in Attachment to a list, not exhaustive, which includes:

potato products (e.g., rosti, croquettes, duchess potatoes, potato noisette, potato (and vegetable) casserole, potato and meat pie, potato and cheese pie,

baked goods, such as sandwiches (e.g., hamburger buns, whole wheat sandwiches, and milk sandwiches), pitta breads, Mexican tortillas, croissants, fried doughnuts, special breads (e.g., ” pita bread, pumpernickel bread, olive ciabatta, onion bread, etc.), pancakes, crispy fried pastries, churros,

cereal products, such as rice crackers, corn crackers, cereal snacks (e.g., with extruded corn and/or wheat products), honey toasted muesli,

other categories of foods, such as vegetable chips/chips, roasted nuts, roasted oilseeds, dried fruits, roasted cocoa beans and cocoa products, pickled olives, coffee substitutes not made from chicory or cereals, fudge, candy cakes, nougat.

EU Recommendation 2019/1888, the duties of member states and operators

Member states and food business operators must submit to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), by October 1 each year, the monitoring data collected during the previous year. With a view to their inclusion in the special dedicated database, applying the ‘Guidelines on Standardized Sample Description‘ of food and feed.

The representativeness of the sample is to be ensured–by the control authorities of the member states–by applying the sampling procedures in Reg. EC 333/07, (Annex, Part B). On the other hand, operators may derogate from it, provided that they still ensure the representativeness of the samples submitted for analysis.

Food business operators must therefore ensure that:

the samples are actually representative of each batch as well as each type (and part) of the products,

– the analysis of products is to ascertain the presence of acrylamide and verify the effectiveness of mitigation measures. That is, to ascertain that contaminant contents are always below reference levels,

– the data collected should allow an assessment of the acrylamide content and the likelihood that the product type may exceed the reference level,

laboratories responsible for analysis must participate in appropriate programs to verify their competence, according to the ‘International Harmonized Protocol for the Proficiency Testing of (Chemical) Analytical Laboratories’. As well as applying accredited methods of analysis.

Dario Dongo


(1) Rec. 2007/331/EC, 2010/307/EU, 2013/647/EU

(2) With good memory also of another, equally shameful case. The raising of limits for aflatoxins-also genotoxic and carcinogenic-in hazelnuts. Without any scientific justification, ça va sans dir. See previous article

(3) See Recommendation (EU) 2019/1888.

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.