DSM has introduced an enzymatic solution called PreventASe XR, which the Dutch ingredients firm says can reduce acrylamide levels by up to 95%.
The solution is designed to limit acrylamide formation in higher-pH applications such as corn chips, biscuits and crackers, according to Ingredients Network.
Acrylamide is a probable human carcinogen that can naturally form in certain foods when they are cooked or fried at high temperatures. Acrylamide can be found in potatoes, coffee and CPG items such as crackers, bread, cookies and breakfast cereals.
The presence of acrylamide is likely to concern consumers who want to believe their foods and beverages are safe. And even though it would take a large amount of the substance to pose a human health risk — the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says "very high doses" have caused cancer in animals — consumers who know about acrylamide are understandably worried about exposure to the chemical.
However, just because an item contains acrylamide doesn't automatically make it unsafe since it's the level that counts. For example, one cup of coffee tested by the Clean Label Project had an average of 1.77 micrograms of acrylamide per serving, while french fries from a top U.S. fast-food outlet had 75.65 micrograms. Nevertheless, experts such as the American Cancer Society advise people to keep their exposure to acrylamide as low as possible.
For manufacturers, any ingredient that might be able to reduce acrylamide levels without requiring them to reformulate product recipes is bound to be welcome news. Also, DSM claims its enzyme solution doesn't affect the taste, appearance or texture of the products in which it's used. As long as the PreventASe XR product is not prohibitively expensive, many processed food brands might be interested in it.
While some consumers may not be aware of the risks of acrylamide, chances are they would still like to know that the food and beverage products they purchase contain an ingredient that may be able to reduce its presence. Labeling items accordingly could provide a competitive edge to some CPG makers — but it could also have the opposite effect by telling consumers that a potentially hazardous chemical is in their food.
In California, coffee already has a warning label for acrylamide. Proposition 65, a state law passed by voters there in 1986, requires warning labels for about 900 chemicals known to cause cancer or birth defects — and acrylamide is a byproduct of the coffee-roasting process. A Los Angeles judge ruled in March that the warning signs must be displayed in coffee shops, but some coffee producers — including Starbucks, Coca-Cola, Caribou Coffee, Folgers and Keurig Green Mountain — have appealed that decision. They say coffee doesn't contain dangerous levels of acrylamide, and the state agreed in a turnabout decision announced in June.
California's warning label regulation is being reviewed through August, and a public hearing is scheduled for Aug. 16 in Sacramento.