With European elections coming up in May 2019, you probably want to know how the European Union impacts your daily life, before you think about voting. In the latest in a series of posts on what Europe does for you, your family, your business and your wellbeing, we look at what Europe does for people who like chips.
If you love chips or indeed any other fried or baked foods such as crisps, biscuits or toast, you may have heard of acrylamide, a harmful substance present in these foods.
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Discovered by Swedish scientists in 2002, acrylamide can be found in a wide range of everyday starch-rich foods that are fried, baked or roasted at high temperatures. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concluded in 2015 that acrylamide in food is a public health concern, highlighting links with cancer and obesity.
Following EFSA’s opinion, the European Commission presented a proposal in June 2017 on measures to reduce acrylamide levels in food. The new rules apply from 11 April 2018.
Ingredients used and storage and processing temperatures have a major influence on acrylamide formation. Manufacturers should therefore select potato and flour varieties with lower acrylamide-forming potential and keep to the right storage temperature. They are advised to wash or soak chips before frying, to keep the oil temperature as low as possible, and to control the colour of the final product, as a longer cooking time and deeper colour increase the amount of acrylamide. In addition, manufacturers must measure the levels of acrylamide in their products to check them against the values set by the Commission. If these voluntary efforts fail to be sufficiently effective, the Commission is considering setting binding limits for the food industry.
The way you cook at home also has a substantial impact, so the advice is to fry your chips until golden yellow, not brown, and to avoid overcooking your toast.
- European Commission’s Directorate General for Health and Food Safety website, https://ec.europa.eu/food/safety/chemical_safety/contaminants/catalogue/acrylamide_en
- European Food Safety Authority’s website, http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/topics/topic/acrylamide
- EPRS | European Parliamentary Research Service: www.epthinktank.eu