Health Canada Updates its Risk Management Strategy for Acrylamide in Food

Acrylamide is a chemical that naturally forms in certain foods, particularly plant-based foods that are rich in carbohydrates and low in protein, when the natural amino-acid asparagine reacts with certain naturally-occurring sugars such as glucose during processing or cooking at high temperatures (e.g. baking or frying). Acrylamide is known to cause cancer in experimental animals.

The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) determined that the estimated intake of acrylamide from certain foods may be a human health concernFootnote 1. Therefore, the Committee called for strategies to reduce exposure to acrylamide. Health Canada scientists participated in the JECFA evaluation and concur with its recommendations.

While further research on the human health effects of dietary exposure to acrylamide is needed before the risks are fully understood, Health Canada is acting on JECFA's recommendation to reduce exposure to foodborne acrylamide. To achieve this:

  1. Health Canada will continue to press the food industry towards the development and implementation of acrylamide reduction strategies by food processors and the food service industry:
    • While Health Canada is aware of changes implemented by food processors which have already resulted in reduction of acrylamide levels in certain foods, Health Canada will actively engage the food industry in the development of a guidance document outlining best practices for acrylamide reduction in prepackaged foods;
    • Health Canada will continue to support the development and implementation of additional tools that will minimize acrylamide formation in foods. This includes the use of the enzyme asparaginase in food processing;
    • Health Canada will ensure that acrylamide reduction strategies are adopted by the Canadian food service industry;
    • Health Canada will also implement an acrylamide monitoring program to evaluate the effectiveness of these reduction strategies and to assess industry's compliance with identified acrylamide reduction best practices This program could possibly lead to the development of reduction targets.
  2. Health Canada will regularly update and re-issue its consumption advice to consumers on how to reduce their exposure to acrylamide from food sources, based on the most up-to-date scientific and monitoring data.
  3. Health Canada will coordinate its risk management efforts for acrylamide in food with key food regulatory partners in the United States, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. Where required, Health Canada will support targeted toxicology research to better understand possible chronic effects of acrylamide in food.

Health Canada will also update its food-related health risk assessment, based on emerging findings available internationally and stemming from its own research and monitoring activities related to acrylamide occurrence in food and its impacts on human health.

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