In July the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released its most comprehensive report on acrylamide, posting a database of 2,500 foods and their acrylamide content.
Acrylamide is a carcinogen that is created when starchy foods are baked, roasted, fried or toasted. It first hit the headlines in 2002, when scientists at the Swedish Food Administration reported unexpectedly high levels of acrylamide, found to cause cancer in laboratory rats, in carbohydrate-rich foods.
Although the debate still continues on the risk that acrylamide poses to humans consuming the chemical compound, manufacturers are watching research closely, knowing that their consumers are keen to avoid carcinogenic foods.
The new findings are part of a wider action plan to better understand the effects and prevalence of acrylamide in the food supply. WHO's food safety department based in Switzerland is currently playing a key role in coordinating the global effort.
According to FDA research, the top three foods with the highest mean acrylamide content were potato based. Products such as restaurant french-fries, oven-baked french-fries and potato chips could pose the highest risk to consumers.
Hot drinks were also high on the list, with one sample, Postum caffeine-free hot beverage, marking the highest acrylamide content on the FDA list at 5,399 ppb.
The FDA results backs up the research indicating that acrylamide formation is associated with high temperature cooking processes for certain carbohydrate-rich and sugar-rich foods. An example is Lamb Weston Inland Valley's unbaked fries product. They marked 200 ppb before cooking and 1,325 ppb after cooking.
The FDA research identifies products by name brand, acrylamide content (in parts per billion) and designation (i.e. baby food, ingredient formulas, bakery products).
The FDA findings may prove to be harmful to some companies as consumers react to the findings, despite there being little evidence on the harm to human health that acrylamide poses.
Food manufacturers are still fighting to exempt acrylamide from California's Proposition 65, which requires manufacturers to alert customers through labels about the existence of cancer causing compounds in food.
Food processors remain resolutely opposed to such a warning system, fearing that such labeling would needlessly scare consumers.
The full list of FDA findings can be viewed at: http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/acrydata.html