Research seminar 9.6.2009: Risk assessment of acrylamide in food


<p>Acrylamide is a substance formed in food preparation and has been found being genotoxic and causing cancer in test animals. Only limited data exist on the carcinogenic risk of this agent to people. However, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has advanced that acrylamide probably is cancerous also to people (group 2A). No data to date is available on the exposure of Finns to acrylamide.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p>

Professor Kimmo Peltonen, Chemistry and Toxicology Research Unit, Evira, Helsinki
Senior Researcher Tero Hirvonen, Risk Assessment Unit, Evira, Helsinki
Evira/Helsinki Viikki, Auditorium C111 Kalevi
Tu 9.6.2009, 3:00 – 4:00 pm

Acrylamide is common in the environment
Acrylamide is a common pollutant in the environment and present in city air, vehicle exhausts, and tobacco smoke. Acrylamide is formed by heating food stock to at least 120° C. Forming requires the food sufficiently to contain reductive sugars (e.g. glucose, i.e. grape sugar), but very little protein. High contents of acrylamide have been found in potato chips, coffee and biscuits, among others. Contents in products of the same food can display up to tenfold differences (e.g. among various crispbread brands). This variation in contents presents assessing exposures with significant challenges.

Research results
In experiments with test animals, acrylamide has been shown to cause neurological disorders and cancer. For test animals, acrylamide is a genotoxic compound, and induces malignant tumours. The carcinogenic mechanism has been associated with glycidamide, the principal metabolic product of acrylamide. Research on laboratory animals also indicates that acrylamide in addition may induce cancer through other mechanisms than genotoxicity.

Epidemiological studies on people to some extent have shown exposure to acrylamide being associated with carcinogenic risks (e.g. corpus uteri cancer, ovary cancer, renal cancer). However, relative risks have been small, and observations have not been consistent. In addition, it appears that these cancers do not appear in the same organs in test animals and people. In epidemiological research, assessing exposure has presented particular challenges. Generally, these studies originally were not designed to assess exposure to acrylamide, and hence may include significant measurement errors.

The research seminar will present the research results of studies at Evira on the contents of acrylamide in food, and the preliminary results of epidemiological studies jointly carried out by Evira and the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL). An assessment of exposure among adults and children to acrylamide will start this year.

Additional information:
Head of Unit Kimmo Peltonen, Chemistry and Toxicology Research Unit, tel. 040 500 2614, kimmo.peltonen
Senior Researcher Tero Hirvonen, Risk Assessment Unit, tel. 0400 105 787,

For Evira’s research seminars, no advance registration is necessary.


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