Acrylamide in food

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About acrylamide

Acrylamide is a chemical that can form from naturally present compounds in starchy foods during high-temperature processing or cooking (for example, baking, frying, roasting).

You can find higher levels of acrylamide in processed foods such as:

  • French fries
  • potato and vegetable-based chips and crackers

You can find acrylamide at lower levels in various other baked goods and processed foods such as:

  • toast
  • cereals
  • cookies

Health effects of acrylamide

Exposure to very high doses of acrylamide can cause cancer in experimental animals. There is no conclusive evidence that the much lower levels of acrylamide in our diet causes cancer in humans. However, Health Canada and international organizations agree that acrylamide may be a human health concern and exposure should be minimized.

What we're doing about acrylamide

In 2009, we assessed acrylamide under the Government of Canada's Chemicals Management Plan. After the assessment, we updated our risk management strategy for acrylamide in food to ensure that Canadians' exposure to acrylamide is as low as possible.

We allow the use of a food enzyme that helps lower the formation of acrylamide in foods. Since 2012, we have allowed the use of asparaginase in various food products sold in Canada. The List of Permitted Food Enzymes sets out authorized enzymes that manufacturers can use in food products sold in Canada.

We continue to monitor the levels of acrylamide in foods sold in Canada. We use these results to:

  • assess dietary exposure to acrylamide
  • follow-up with manufacturers who may be able to lower the levels of acrylamide in their products by following industry guidance

We also evaluate new information on the health effects of acrylamide. We use this information to determine whether we need more risk management measures for acrylamide in foods sold in Canada.

What you can do to reduce your exposure to acrylamide

You can take some simple measures to reduce your exposure to acrylamide from foods.

Follow the advice in Canada's food guide:

  • eat a variety of healthy foods each day
  • limit how much highly processed food you eat

Follow these tips to reduce acrylamide formation in foods you prepare at home.

  • Do not keep uncooked potatoes in the refrigerator. This can increase the amount of sugar they contain and lead to higher levels of acrylamide during cooking. Store potatoes in a dry and dark place at a temperature at or above 6°C.
  • Choose a potato cooking method that minimizes acrylamide formation. Frying potatoes produces the most acrylamide while roasting potatoes produces less acrylamide. Boiling and microwaving potatoes do not produce acrylamide.
  • If you are frying potatoes, wash or soak fresh cut potatoes in water for several minutes first.
  • If you are deep frying potatoes, cook to a light golden colour using a maximum temperature of 175°C (350°F).
  • Follow the manufacturer's instructions for cooking time and temperature when baking prepared foods, such as frozen potato products.
  • Toast bread or baked goods to the lightest colour possible. Avoid eating toasted bread or baked goods that are over-cooked or burnt.

Related links

Industry guidance

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