The acrylamide content of our foods – food safety aspects of a Maillard reaction product

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Author: Tamás János Szigeti

1. Summary

It has been known since 2002 that during the heat treatment production of foods that contain both carbohydrates and amino acids, acrylamide is also formed among the transformation products in a Maillard-type reaction, depending on the chemical composition of the raw materials and the temperature used in the technology. According to the literature, acrylamide may initiate carcinogenic processes in the human body.

In the paper, the Maillard reaction and the process of acrylamide formation is outlined. The biochemical significance of acrylamide is also discussed, as well as its toxic and carcinogenic effects on the human body. In 2017, manufacturers’ measures aimed at decreasing acrylamide levels in heat treated, mainly baked, foods, as well as mandatory laboratory testing were regulated by a European Union Commission decree, and maximum permissible acrylamide levels in the foods in question were also set. In this connection, some laboratory test methods available in the literature will be described, including one that is based on a non-chromatographic principle.

Sample preparation of the foods produced mainly by baking was carried out in our laboratory by extraction with a mixture of acetonitrile and water, followed by a clean-up, without derivatization. For qualitative analysis and the recording of the calibration curve, a deuterated internal standard was used. Acrylamide content was determined by a mass selective detection technique in positive ionization mode after gas chromatographic separation in the case of aqueous samples, and after high performance liquid chromatographic separation in the case of solid samples.

Prior to the publication of the EU Commission decree, between 2006 and November 2017, the acrylamide contents of 250 drinking water samples, 715 potato chip samples and 67 other food samples (for a total of 1033 samples) were tested at the request of our partners. The limit of quantification (LOQ) of our analytical tests was 1.0 µg/L for drinking waters and 10 µg/kg for solid foods. Our measurement results were below the LOQ value for all water samples. In the case of potato chips, the most common values were between the LOQ 1500 µg/kg. The presence of acrylamide could not be detected in only 2.9% of the samples of these products, i.e., 97.1% of potato-based products were “positive” for acrylamide content, and acrylamide concentrations exceeding the reference value of 750 µg/kg of the current regulation were found in 14.8% of them (106 samples). It should be noted that, during the period in question, there were no legal limit values in the EU for acrylamide.


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