EU - The European Commission and European food safety officials could take EU-wide measures to control the amount of acrylamide in food.
The move follows a meeting of European Food Safety Authority scientists to discuss some 100 comments with the contributors to a recent public consultation on acrylamide in food, a contaminant that forms in starchy foods as a result of high temperature food processing, including cooking.
The comments and the productive follow-up meeting mainly focused on EFSA’s recent draft description of the potential health risks of acrylamide in food and estimation of human exposure to acrylamide in the diet.
The decision of the European Commission to take action at an EU level is because the commission does not believe voluntary controls will be sufficient.
In its July 2014 draft opinion, EFSA provisionally concluded that “acrylamide in food potentially increases the risk of developing cancer for consumers in all age groups”.
Speaking in Brussels, Dr Diane Benford, Chair of EFSA’s Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM), highlighted the positive impact of engaging with the commentators: “Today's meeting has been useful for us to listen, discuss, explain and better understand the public consultation results.
“This will certainly help us to refine our risk assessment and provide clear scientific advice for risk managers to use in developing regulatory or other measures.”
More specifically, Dr Benford added, “We may look to better explain our assessment of the possible health effects especially in relation to studies involving humans. Further clarification of our dietary exposure estimation and the breakdown and reporting of food categories could also be helpful.”
The consultation ensures that the widest possible range of scientific views and information are considered before EFSA’s experts finalise their opinion of acrylamide in food, in the first half of 2015.
The meeting was attended by 50 participants including representatives of national food safety agencies and scientific advisory bodies, the food industry as well as academia and some individuals. EFSA scientific experts and staff were also present.
Nine invited guest speakers gave presentations on issues they raised during the online consultation. These formed the basis for further discussions among all the participants.
A representative of the European Commission also gave a presentation on the background to the request sent to EFSA and the next steps for EU risk managers once EFSA’s opinion is finalised in 2015.
The Commission said it considers the implementation of voluntary mitigation measures to reduce acrylamide levels in food unsatisfactory and variable among food business operators.
The Commission, together with risk managers in Member States, will discuss further measures at EU level to reduce acrylamide levels in food as low as reasonably achievable.