FDA assesses FAO/WHO report on acrylamide

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is reviewing a report released on March 2, from the Food and Agriculture Organization and World Health Organization Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) on acrylamide in food. Acrylamide is a natural byproduct that forms when certain carbohydrate-rich foods are fried, baked, or roasted at high temperatures. Acrylamide can cause cancer in laboratory animals at high doses, although it is not clear whether it causes cancer at the much lower levels in food.

"FDA has been at the forefront of developing the science needed to fully assess acrylamide," said Dr. Robert Brackett, FDA's Director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. "We look forward to thoroughly assessing JECFA's latest findings on this issue, so that we can work together using sound science to assure the safety of our food supply."

Since the discovery of acrylamide in food in 2002, FDA has initiated a broad range of activities on acrylamide, including being at the forefront of new toxicology research on acrylamide. This FDA research includes the carcinogenicity and neurotoxicity studies and the toxicology modeling work cited in the JECFA recommendations. The results of these studies, expected in 2007, will be pivotal for future evaluations of acrylamide.

Experts from FDA participated in the meeting and recent FDA research on acrylamide levels in food and acrylamide toxicology were used for JECFA's evaluation. Although the report concludes that acrylamide may be a human health concern, JECFA also cautions that there are uncertainties in its conclusions because of limitations in the data used to evaluate acrylamide. JECFA also made the following recommendations that are consistent with the FDA's approach:
  • Reevaluate acrylamide when ongoing carcinogenicity and long-term neurotoxicity studies are available;

  • Continue work on acrylamide using toxicology modeling;

  • Continue appropriate efforts to reduce acrylamide concentrations in food; and

  • Encourage accumulation of scientific data on acrylamide in foods in developing countries.
At this time, FDA advises consumers to eat a balanced diet, choosing a variety of foods that are low in trans fat and saturated fat, and rich in high-fiber grains, fruits, and vegetables. FDA is also planning to release new data this spring on acrylamide levels in the U.S. diet.

Further information about acrylamide is available via the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition website at www.cfsan.fda.gov/~lrd/pestadd.html#acrylamide.

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