About 10% of the biscuits for infants and young children surveyed on sale in the UK have high levels of acrylamide, according to a survey commissioned by the Changing Markets Foundation.
The research analyzed 48 types of biscuits for infants and young children in the UK, including well-known brands such as Little Dish and Ella’s Kitchen.
The highest levels of acrylamide were found in a sample of Little Dish biscuits for one-year-olds. These were found to contain a concentration of 924.4 μg/kg, almost five times above the European benchmark and 30 times higher than products with the lowest concentration.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) considers exposure of babies and young children to acrylamide of particular concern. In addition, a recent study from the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) concluded that people in the UK currently consume higher levels of the chemical than is desirable and that the risk of cancer from acrylamide exposure is three times higher in infants than in adults.
In total, four samples of similar products from the brand Little Dish exceeded the recommended EU benchmark (200μg/kg) while one sample from Ella’s Kitchen came close to it.
In France, Changing Markets and SumOfUs’ survey of baby biscuits found only one product, from Nestlé brand – that had levels higher than the benchmark.
Similar products sold in Croatia, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia and Bulgaria were recently recalled from the market for having levels of acrylamide at 1,020 μg/kg.
Today’s findings come just six months after the FSA published its own monitoring results showing 29 products exceed the recommended acrylamide benchmarks, including three types of baby foods.
The FSA recently launched the Go for Gold campaign, focused on recommendations on how to reduce acrylamide levels through home cooking.
“While it is important not to burn your toast, the FSA seems to be shying away from taking a tougher stance on the food industry, where significant reductions of acrylamide are possible. We mustn’t forget that acrylamide exposure from home-cooked food is considered relatively small when compared with industrially or restaurant-prepared foods,” says Nabil Berbour, senior campaigner at SumOfUs, a global consumer watchdog whose petition asking the EU Commission to set legally binding maximum levels of acrylamide in food has gathered more than 229,000 signatures.
Many food operators still do not take measures to reduce the levels due to a lack of mandatory legal limits.
In response to this, a legislative proposal on acrylamide in food is currently being discussed by the European Commission and member states. This proposal has been heavily criticized by food safety and consumer protection groups because it fails to introduce maximum legal limits for acrylamide, which is the approach taken on other contaminants in EU law. The vote on the draft proposal is expected in June.