Newswise — Scientists are making progress in reducing the levels of the potentially cancer-causing acrylamide from foods like potato chips, but reducing its presence in coffee is still a challenge, according to food science experts meeting here at the Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting + FOOD EXPOÂ®.
Acrylamide, a chemical found in potato chips, French fries, coffee, and bread, was the center of a worldwide health scare in 2002 after a European study found it was formed in some foods that were fried or baked at high temperatures. Since then, scientists have tried to find ways to reduce acrylamide from food without destroying their taste and quality.
Researchers now believe they can reduce or remove before cooking some of the compounds that help form acrylamide during baking or frying.
"[F]or certain applications, [this] is a very promising approach," said Richard Stadler, head of quality management at Nestle. Reducing acrylamide in coffee, on the other hand, has always been a challenge, he said.
Michael Pariza, director of the Food Research Institute at the University of Wisconsin, said there's yet been no single all-encompassing method found for reducing acrylamide while preserving quality. But he says the problem must be taken in context.
There are thousands of compounds in food that are potential carcinogenic, he said. But that doesn't mean they're dangerous.
"We need to keep this in perspective," Pariza said.
James Coughlin, a food toxicology expert from California, said a recent study in Germany of three men and three women given potato chips containing acrylamide found that more than half of the compound was excreted in their urine. Coughlin said the results were encouraging, but regulators don't care as much about the positive studies as they do about the negative ones.
"I think there's something wrong with that," Coughlin said.
Now in its 66th year, IFT Annual Meeting + FOOD EXPOÂ® is the world's largest annual scientific meeting and technical exposition of its kind, delivering comprehensive, cutting-edge research and opinion from food science-, technology-, marketing- and business-leaders.
Founded in 1939, and with world headquarters in Chicago, Illinois, USA, the Institute of Food Technologists is a not-for-profit international scientific society with 22,000 members working in food science, technology and related professions in industry, academia and government. As the society for food science and technology, IFT brings sound science to the public discussion of food issues. For more on IFT, see http://www.ift.org.