Acrylamide is a colorless, odorless compound that is frequently used in industry for the production of polyacrylamide polymer, dyes, organic chemicals, fabrics, paper and textiles, cosmetics, sugar refining, contact lenses, and as a soil stabilizer.1,2 In 1994, the International Agency for Research on Cancer listed acrylamide as an industrial chemical that has the potential to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans.1

Acrylamide is also found in dietary sources.1 Acrylamide is formed during the heating (120 C to 180 C) of free amino acids, particularly asparagine, or sugars and therefore, results in variable concentrations in certain dietary products.1,3 High acrylamide content, with a mean of over 200 µg/kg, has been identified in a variety of foods, including processed cereal products, breads, pastries, gingersnap cookies, potato and tortilla chips, french fries and sweet potato fries, instant or decaffeinated coffee, and cocoa products.3

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Concerns About Acrylamide

Concern about the potential of dietary acrylamide and its potential human health effects began in 2002, shortly after it was first detected in heated foods in 2002.1 Since then, nearly 100% of the US population is believed to harbor measurable levels of acrylamide adducts; those who smoke cigarettes are thought to have nearly 2-times the levels of these adducts.4

Although there is inconclusive evidence about the association between acrylamide and cancer in humans, based on animal model data, the Joint Food and Agricultural Organization/World Health Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives have concluded that it is a human health concern in 2010 and called for additional long-term studies.5 The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is actively researching acrylamide and is monitoring the levels of acrylamide in food.6 In addition, the FDA released a guidance for industry on reducing levels of acrylamide in prepared foods.6