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Oz acrylamide, aluminium levels safe yet still 'potentially harmful'

By RJ Whitehead , 05-May-2014
Last updated on 05-May-2014 at 10:52 GMT

Acrylamide forms naturally in carbohydrate-rich foods like chips
Acrylamide forms naturally in carbohydrate-rich foods like chips

Food Standards Australia New Zealand, the Australasian regulator, has said that consumers’ exposure to acrylamide and aluminium through their diets is within international guidelines, even if these levels are still sufficient to pose a concern to health.

Releasing part of FSANZ’s latest annual study into Australian diets, its chief executive, Steve McCutcheon, said levels of acrylamide in Australian foods and beverages were on the whole either comparable with, or lower than, what is found in other countries.

Possible concern

However, the estimated dietary exposure remains in the range considered to be of possible human health concern by international expert committees,” McCutcheon said. 

FSANZ is working with industry to look at ways to reduce acrylamide levels in food, such as encouraging industry to use enzymes that reduce acrylamide formation.

Acrylamide forms naturally in carbohydrate-rich foods during high-temperature cooking, such as baking, frying and grilling. It can also occur through food processing methods used to enhance flavour and colour in snack foods such as potato crisps. 

[The study] also looked at aluminium levels in the many foods that contain it naturally, as well as processed foods likely to have additives containing aluminium. Most foods had some levels of aluminium, with the highest levels found in cakes, pikelets and pancakes.

These results are consistent with international findings and indicate that most of the Australian population’s exposure to aluminium is within internationally recognised safe levels—however there was a slight exceedance for 2-5-year-old high consumers.”

According to FSANZ, it is unlikely that this slight spike represents a public health and safety issue, although it is is investigating whether the current permissions for aluminium-containing food additives are still appropriate.

New FSANZ strategy

Meanwhile, FSANZ has revealed its latest science strategy, which will be in place until June 2015. This time, the new plan places a strong emphasis on enhancing FSANZ’s relationships with national and international regulators, academics and industry players.

Introducing the strategy, FSANZ said this desire to strengthen partnerships “reflects the environment of financial constraint under which we currently operate, whereby there is a greater necessity to look for areas where we can pool our resources and efforts to achieve our deliverables”. 

The Science Strategy identifies seven key strategic areas on which FSANZ will focus, starting with increasing its scientific capacity, then extending its evidence base through data collection, analysis and management and sharing of results.

The body has also committed to enhancing its communications to stakeholders, better identifying and responding to emerging issues, developing food regulatory science and holding up its performance to stakeholder review.

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