Alarms about acrylamide sounded a long time ago. This chemical, potentially carcinogenic although its effects on the organism are still not known in detail, It is naturally formed in starch-rich products cooked at high temperatures, such as chips. LThe European Union adopted a regulation in April last year It establishes measures to reduce its presence and sets guideline levels to know if they are working. This Wednesday, The European Consumer Organization (BEUC) went a step further, sending a letter to the European Commission to demand mandatory thresholds and expand research to more foods. In addition, he published the results of a study that analyzes the quantities of acrylamide in more than 500 products in 10 countries, including Spain.
The BEUC study, which is taken as a sample cookies, chips, cereals or coffee, concludes that most of the products analyzed are below the reference levels set by the regulations. But in the case of cookies, whether salty or sweet, things change: a third of those examined are at the limit or above the levels established for this category of products. "The problem with cookies and wafers is even more significant if one considers that many of these products are frequently consumed by children under three years of age," the study reads. The research also asks how to evaluate foods such as chips based on vegetables, so fashionable but still do not have a specific reference level.
The harmful potential of acrylamide and its formation in cooked foods at a temperature higher than 170 degrees with low humidity -this is the case of products that are baked, roasted or fried, both at home and in restaurants and in industrial processes- has been known for more than fifteen years, and it has been shown that their consumption increases in animals the risk of developing cancer and having problems in the nervous system. In 2015, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said that "acrylamide in food is a concern for public health" and the World Health Organization included it among its list of potentially carcinogenic foods.
In Spain, the Organization of Consumers and Users (OCU), who has participated in the study as a BEUC partner, has analyzed 55 products: chips from fast food restaurants, potatoes chips (from the bag) and cookies for adults and babies, more exposed due to their low body weight. The results are similar to those obtained in the whole of Europe. In general terms, manufacturers respect the reference values and only five products exceeded the recommended levels. These are the chips of a fast food chain (of 14 analyzed), two kinds of potato chips (of 20) and two brands of cookies for children under three years.
BEUC cconsiders that the reference levels set by the EU are too lenient and should be reduced, especially in the case of cookies, which often consume the smallest even for adults. The same regulation establishes that "lThe Commission should regularly review the reference levels in order to establish lower limits, reflecting the continuous reduction of the presence of acrylamide in foods. "
On the other hand, the organization requests that reference levels be established for vegetable-based appetizers, often marketed as a healthier alternative to fried potatoes. And, above all, it requires mandatory thresholds. "This test across the EU shows that it is possible to produce French fries, chips or cereals with low acrylamide content. But while the measures are voluntary, some manufacturers will not take the problem seriously and consumers could be exposed to high levels. To force food manufacturers to pay more attention to this pollutant, the EU Commission must establish binding limits, as we have repeatedly asked, "said Monique Goyens, general director of BEUC.