The prevalence of acrylamide in commonly consumed foods is a growing concern for public health experts across the United States. Acrylamide, a potentially carcinogenic compound found in starchy plant-based foods cooked at high temperatures, is ubiquitous in the American diet, particularly in beloved snacks like potato chips and cereals.
Notably, almost all of the U.S. population [99.9%] has markers of acrylamide exposure in their blood, likely due to the prevalence of chips and processed snacks in the American diet. In 2020 alone, Americans spent a staggering $10.4 billion on potato chips. We conducted an extensive survey of 200 individuals that revealed that 46% eat chips daily, 36% weekly, and 18% monthly. Nobody in our survey claimed they never consumed chips. This widespread consumption of snacks, especially chips, is a significant source of acrylamide exposure.
Acrylamide's dangers have been recognized since 1990 when it was added to Proposition 65. Initially, concerns revolved around its effects on workers, particularly its neurotoxicity, reproductive issues, and carcinogenic properties. However, the 2002 discovery that it can form in heated starchy foods broadened these concerns to the general public. The negative health impacts of acrylamide are many:
- Carcinogenicity: The International Agency for Research on Cancer [IARC] has labeled acrylamide as a potential carcinogen for humans. Given that about one in four individuals develop cancer and that roughly 30% of global cancer cases relate to dietary factors , this is a pressing public health issue. In 2020, cancer care costs reached an estimated $208.9 billion.
- Neurotoxicity: Studies on animals have demonstrated that acrylamide can cause nerve damage and hinder neurological functions. Workers exposed to high acrylamide levels have reported neurotoxic effects.
- Cardiovascular Health: There's growing evidence connecting high acrylamide consumption to increased risks of heart disease and stroke.
Our project, through the use of innovative vacuum frying technology, seeks to reduce acrylamide-related health threats and promote a healthier food environment.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration [FDA] took the 2002 discovery of acrylamide in foods seriously and responded with efforts to address the potential health concerns associated with its consumption. Per FDA data, a bag of sweet potato chips contains 8mg/kg which is 3 times higher than 2.6 mg/kg, the tolerable daily intake to avoid carcinogenic effects.
Based on the research and evaluation results, the FDA issued guidance for industry to reduce acrylamide levels in foods. The guidance recommends lowering frying temperatures to 275°F and retaining more moisture in the final product to curb acrylamide formation. While this is a step towards healthier consumption, it presents challenges for companies.
Leading Retailers Take Action 🛒: In response to the health risks posed by acrylamide in our diets, major food retailers are adopting new measures to ensure safer snacking options.
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