Acrylamide is a chemical used mainly in certain industrial processes, such as in producing paper, dyes, and plastics, and in treating drinking water and wastewater. It is found in small amounts in some consumer products, such as caulk, food packaging, and some adhesives. Acrylamide is also found in cigarette smoke. Acrylamide can also form in some starchy foods during high-temperature cooking processes, such as frying, roasting, and baking. Acrylamide forms from sugars and an amino acid that are naturally present in food; it does not come from food packaging or the environment. What expert agencies say
Several agencies (national and international) study different substances in the environment to determine if they can cause cancer. (A substance that causes cancer or helps cancer grow is called a carcinogen.) The American Cancer Society looks to these organizations to evaluate the risks based on evidence from laboratory, animal, and human research studies. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is part of the World Health Organization (WHO). Its major goal is to identify causes of cancer. Based on the data from lab animals, IARC classifies acrylamide as a "probable human carcinogen". The National Toxicology Program (NTP) is formed from parts of several different US government agencies, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The NTP has classified acrylamide as "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen" based on the studies in lab animals. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maintains the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS), an electronic database that contains information on human health effects from exposure to various substances in the environment. The EPA classifies acrylamide as a "probable human carcinogen" based on studies in lab animals. (For more information on the classification systems used by these agencies, see our document, Known and Probable Human Carcinogens.) Since the discovery of acrylamide in foods, the American Cancer Society, the FDA, and many other organizations have recognized the need for further research on this topic. Ongoing studies will continue to provide new information on whether acrylamide levels in foods are linked to increased cancer risk. Are acrylamide levels regulated?
In the United States, the FDA regulates the amount of residual acrylamide in a variety of materials that come in contact with food, but there are currently no guidelines on the presence of acrylamide in food itself. The EPA regulates acrylamide in drinking water. The EPA established an acceptable level of acrylamide exposure, set low enough to account for any uncertainty in the data relating acrylamide to cancer and effects on nerves. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/athome/acrylamide
According to FDA findings
In June 2002, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) convened an expert consultation on acrylamide. The consultation, in which three FDA experts participated, concluded that the presence of acrylamide in food is a major concern, and recommended more research on mechanisms of formation and toxicity. Both the WHO/FAO consultation and the FDA have recommended that people continue to eat a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables. The WHO/FAO consultation advised that food should not be cooked excessively, i.e., for too long a time or at too high a temperature, but also advised that it is important to cook all food thoroughly--particularly meat and meat products--to destroy foodborne pathogens (bacteria, viruses, etc.) that might be present.
On April 24, 2002, researchers at the Swedish National Food Administration and Stockholm University reported finding the chemical acrylamide in a variety of fried and oven-baked foods. The initial...