Acrylamide is a pressing health concern globally. It is formed when foods are cooked at temperatures in excess of 120˚C, typically during baking, frying or deep frying. Acrylamide formation occurs as a result of the Maillard browning reactions – a chemical reaction between sugar and asparagine (a naturally occurring amino acid).
Figure one: formation of acrylamide
Global concern over consumer exposure to acrylamide is continually increasing. Since the discovery of acrylamide in 2002, authorities worldwide have conducted investigations into this substance. Last year, the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) concluded that the margin of exposure to acrylamide indicates a health concern. Also in 2010, the EU commission also issued a recommendation document with guidance levels for food. A two year study conducted by the National Toxicology Program (NTP) investigated acrylamide in animals’ drinking water. Published earlier this year, it found clear evidence of carcinogenic activity in both sexes of rats and mice, based on tumors in multiple sites.
The food industry has explored a number of acrylamide mitigation techniques. In 2005, the Confederation of the Food and Drink Industries of the EU (CIAA, today FDE) acrylamide toolbox was launched to provide companies with the latest updates and guidance on acrylamide mitigation. The latest version, published in September 2011, embraces the ALARA (as low as reasonable achievable) principle. Acrylamide mitigation methods available for manufacturers include process changes, ingredient replacement / addition and agronomic solutions. For example, ammonium bicarbonate, which enhances the formation of acrylamide, could be replaced with sodium bicarbonate. Such methods can, however, negatively impact end products’ quality. As a result, many food manufactures have adopted enzymatic solutions, which are reliable, effective and do not interfere with product characteristics.
Enzymes: the compromise-free solution
Enzymes are scientifically proven to mitigate the formation of acrylamide in baked goods, tortillas, snacks and cookies, without affecting taste, visual appeal or texture. PreventASe® , for example, is an asparaginase enzyme derived from the Aspergillus niger micro-organism that offers great advantages as an acrylamide mitigator. So strong is the evidence in favour of asparaginase, it was included in the revised 2007 version of the CIAA (today FDE) toolbox and has benefited from dedicated attention in the subsequent edition.
Asparaginase converts one of the precursors of acrylamide, asparagine, into aspartic acid – another naturally occurring amino acid. As a result, asparagine is no longer available for the chemical reaction that forms acrylamide when carbohydrate-containing foods, such as bread, biscuits, crackers, formed potato products and cereals are being heated. This mitigates the formation of acrylamide by as much as 90% without affecting the nutritional properties of food products, or browning and taste aspects.
The answer to acrylamide, PreventASe is approved in an extensive list of countries worldwide as a safe and effective means of acrylamide mitigation. To find out more, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
By: Rossana Rodriguez, global marketing manager baking enzymes, DSM
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