This report was originally posted on the website of NTP (National Toxicology Program).
Acrylamide is a chemical widely used during the manufacturing of paper, dye, and other industrial products. It can also be formed when certain foods are cooked at high temperatures. Frying, baking, or roasting certain foods, such as potatoes or grains, can create acrylamide. French fries and potato chips, for example, may have measurable acrylamide levels. Acrylamide is also found in cigarette smoke.
How do people get exposed to acrylamide?
Food and cigarette smoke are the major sources of acrylamide exposure.
How does acrylamide get into foods?
When certain foods are cooked at high temperatures, sugars, such as glucose and fructose, can react with the free amino acid, asparagine, to form acrylamide. Acrylamide forms as part of a chemical reaction, known as the Maillard reaction, which contributes to the aroma, taste, and color of cooked foods. Acrylamide is one of the hundreds of chemicals that can form during the Maillard reaction.
Are acrylamide levels regulated?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently developing guidance for industry on reduction of acrylamide levels in food products. FDA also regulates the amount of acrylamide in a variety of materials that come in contact with food. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates acrylamide levels in drinking water.
Where can I find out more about acrylamide?
- NTP acrylamide and glycidamide data and reports
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
- National Cancer Institute
- National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
- NTP Monograph on Acrylamide
How can I reduce my family’s exposure to acrylamide?
Adopt a healthy, balanced eating plan that includes fruits and vegetables, lean meats, fish, high-fiber grains, and beans.
- Fry foods at 170 degrees Celsius (338 degrees Fahrenheit) or lower.
- Cook potato strips, such as french fries, to a golden yellow rather than a golden brown color.
- Toast bread to the lightest color acceptable.
- Soak raw potato slices in water for 15-30 minutes before frying or roasting. Drain and blot dry before cooking.
- Do not store raw potatoes in the refrigerator.
Why did the National Toxicology Program (NTP) study acrylamide?
The nomination to study acrylamide came from the FDA. The FDA wanted high quality data from animal studies to help support risk assessments to understand any potential risks to humans. Acrylamide has been previously shown to cause several types of cancer in animals, but more information was needed to better understand how acrylamide causes tumors and at what doses the tumors occurred in animals.
National Toxicology Program (NTP) also conducted studies on glycidamide, the major metabolite of acrylamide. When acrylamide is consumed through food, the body converts it to glycidamide. Since this conversion may differ among rodent species, comparing the effects of acrylamide and glycidamide in rats and mice provides meaningful support for human health risk assessments.
The NTP studies on acrylamide and glycidamide were conducted at the FDA National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR), as part of an interagency collaboration between NIEHS and FDA/NCTR.
What did the NTP studies find?
The two-year NTP studies of acrylamide, given in an animal’s drinking water, found clear evidence of carcinogenic activity in male and female rats and mice, based on tumors in multiple sites. For example, tumors were found in the mammary and thyroid glands in female rats, and the reproductive organs in male rats. Tumors of the lung were among those observed in mice.
Additionally, NTP conducted parallel studies on glycidamide, which was also found to be a multisite carcinogen in both male and female rats and mice. The types of tumors induced by glycidamide were the same as those seen in acrylamide. Findings of clear evidence of carcinogenic activity in both sexes of rats and mice, and at multiple sites, is relatively uncommon and indicative of a strong carcinogenic response.
What you need to know about acrylamide (from FDA)
What is acrylamide?
Acrylamide is a chemical that can form in some foods during high-temperature cooking processes, such as frying, roasting, and baking. Acrylamide in food forms from sugars and an amino acid that are naturally present in food; it does not come from food packaging or the environment.
Is there a risk from eating foods that contain acrylamide?
Acrylamide caused cancer in animals in studies where animals were exposed to acrylamide at very high doses. In 2010, the Joint Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) concluded that acrylamide is a human health concern, and suggested additional long-term studies. FDA experts participated in the evaluation and provided data from new research studies on acrylamide risk.
Is acrylamide something new in food? When was acrylamide first detected in food?
Acrylamide has probably always been present in cooked foods. However, acrylamide was first detected in certain foods in April 2002.
How does acrylamide form in food?
Acrylamide forms from sugars and an amino acid (asparagine) during certain types of high-temperature cooking, such as frying, roasting, and baking.
What kinds of cooking lead to acrylamide formation? In what foods?
High temperature cooking, such as frying, roasting, or baking, is most likely to cause acrylamide formation. Boiling and steaming do not typically form acrylamide. Acrylamide is found mainly in foods made from plants, such as potato products, grain products, or coffee. Acrylamide does not form, or forms at lower levels, in dairy, meat, and fish products. Generally, acrylamide is more likely to accumulate when cooking is done for longer periods or at higher temperatures. (See Acrylamide: Information on Diet, Food Storage, and Food Preparation.)
What FDA data are available on acrylamide levels in U.S. foods?
FDA has posted its current data on acrylamide in foods on the FDA web site at Survey Data on Acrylamide in Food. The most recent data were added to the website in 2019.
Are acrylamide levels in organic foods different from levels in other foods?
Since acrylamide is formed through cooking, acrylamide levels in cooked organic foods should be similar to levels in cooked non-organic foods.
What is FDA doing about acrylamide in food?
The FDA has initiated a number of activities on acrylamide since the discovery of acrylamide in food in 2002, including toxicology research, analytical methodology development, food surveys, exposure assessments, formation and mitigation research, and guidance for industry. Information on FDA’s activities on acrylamide in food can be found at the agency’s acrylamide page.
Should I stop eating foods that are fried, roasted, or baked?
No. FDA’s best advice for acrylamide and eating is that consumers adopt a healthy eating plan, consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2015-2020), that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products; includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts; and limits saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium) and added sugars.
What can I do if I want to decrease the amount of acrylamide in foods that I cook or eat?
Is acrylamide found anywhere else?
Acrylamide is produced industrially for use in products such as plastics, grouts, water treatment products, and cosmetics. Acrylamide is also found in cigarette smoke.