No one knew acrylamide even existed until it was discovered in 2002. It’s been around close to forever, though. Awareness of the chemical raised a problem. It is “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen,” according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. At high doses in laboratory animals, acrylamide causes cancer.

FDA came out three years ago with non-binding guidance “to help growers, manufacturers and foodservice operators reduce acrylamide levels in certain foods.”

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) took a different path. It classified acrylamide as a carcinogen in 2015 and asked industry for volunteer reductions for a spell before turning to a full-blown European Union (EU) regulatory action.

The EU regulations, setting maximum allowable levels of acrylamide in certain foods, took effect in April.

Acrylamide forms from a naturally present amino acid called free asparagine when it interacts with sugars in foods during high-temperature processing, such as dying, roasting and baking. It is naturally present in starchy foods when they are roasted, baked or fried at high temperatures.

Manufacturers of bread, breakfast cereals, biscuits, fried potatoes, and coffee will be among those most affected by the pending EU regulation. Benchmark levels are being used to measure the effectiveness of mitigation measures the industry may use.

The levels will be legally binding at the outset. There might be a solution.

A new, trademarked, non-GMO product — Acryleast — that was designed to reduce acrylamide, has been brought to market by Kerry, a world-leading Taste & Nutrition company, in partnership with Renaissance BioScience.

The companies’ officials say they’ve come up with a “clean-label” yeast that is rich in asparaginase enzyme, which can reduce acrylamide levels by up to 90 percent across a broad range of food and beverage products, including biscuits, crackers, French fries, potato crisps, coffee, and infant food.

A spokesman explains it this way — the new “AR yeast” consumes asparagine upon contact. It does it very fast and that means food manufacturers don’t have to change any of their processes in order to use it. Then, when heat is applied, there is much less asparagine available to be converted into acrylamide. So, he said, it’s a helpful tool to deal with acrylamide with no downside.

While the EU benchmark levels for acrylamide are ready to challenge the European food industry, other governments around the world are also paying attention to the chemical. California’s infamous Proposition 65  require warning signs on foods and beverages containing acrylamide.

Commenting on the Acryleast launch, Matthew May, Kerry’s bakery lead for Europe and Russia said, “Across our entire taste and nutrition portfolio, we are keen to ensure that the functionality of our ingredients is reliable and consistent. On this basis, we repeatedly tested Acryleast’s effectiveness in reducing acrylamide levels across a range of biscuit and cracker applications. This involved testing in both our laboratories and in scaled-up plant trials, where reductions of greater than 90 percent were achieved. Importantly, these trials also demonstrated no impact on taste or texture, confirming that Acryleast is a very effective and versatile solution for acrylamide reduction, that requires no or minimal changes to existing manufacturing processes.“

Mike Woulfe, vice president of Business Development Enzymes at Kerry comments said “For Kerry, it was essential to launch a solution that was a clean label and non-GMO so that both producers and consumers could trust that acrylamide was being reduced consistently, and in the right way. We are delighted to partner with Renaissance, an innovative life science company. Their non-GMO approach to acrylamide reduction fits very well with our clean-label strategy. Our extensive laboratory and sensory analyses have demonstrated that foods produced using Acryleast are comparable in appearance, aroma and texture to those produced without Acryleast. It is a versatile solution that offers manufacturers an acrylamide reduction strategy that is much more effective than alternative approaches, which require them to fundamentally change their process, e.g. lowering temperatures, processing time or changing raw ingredients.“

Cormac O’Cleirigh, chief business development officer at Renaissance BioScience Corp comments said “For customers looking for peace of mind and a more natural, non-GMO, sustainable solution to a naturally occurring problem, Acryleast is the perfectly natural and clean-label solution. Couple this with Kerry’s global scale and unmatched taste, applications and sensory expertise, and you have the recipe for long-term success.”

Kerry has initially focused Acryleast application analysis in the categories of baked goods. However, this is being expanded to snacks, processed potatoes, and other categories, as the market for non-GMO acrylamide reduction solutions continues to gain traction.

Editor’s note:  This article was updated to make it clear EU and California regulations are in effect.

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