Danish food minister Eva Kjer Hansen will introduce significant Danish levels for the carcinogenic food additive acrylamide while the Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food Safety recently completed an acrylamide risk assessment.

The move follows the US Food and Drug Administration’s draft guidance announcement in November for the food industry to help growers, manufacturers and food service operators take steps to reduce levels of acrylamide in certain foods.

“Acrylamide is a chemical that can form in some foods during certain types of high-temperature cooking, such as frying, roasting, and baking. Acrylamide in food is a concern because the National Toxicology Program (an interagency program that evaluates possible health risks associated with exposure to certain chemicals) characterizes the substance as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen,” the FDA said.

In January Denmark’s Kjer Hansen said she does not believe that the EU is taking hard enough steps against the food substance acrylamide—which is associated with the risk of developing cancer, and is found in such products as coffee, potato crisps, and chips. She is now introducing special Danish indicative levels for the additive.

“According to both the European Food Safety Authority and Denmark’s National Food Institute, consumers have too high an acrylamide intake. This is despite the fact that the EU has specified limit values at EU levels. Therefore, we need to lower the threshold further,” Kjer Hansen said.

“We, unfortunately, note that the current indicative EU limits do not protect Danish consumers well enough. So while we are working on lower limits in the EU, we in Denmark should utilize the opportunity offered by EU rules to introduce our national values.”

Denmark’s new national limits are indicative and will serve as a guide for companies on the maximum level of acrylamide that their various products should include.

“The food industry is already aware of the acrylamide problem. By lowering the limit, I hope we can sharpen the corporate focus on new routines and raw material processing so that xonsumers need not fear the carcinogen when eating bread and drinking coffee,” Kjer Hansen said.

The Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food Safety’s recently completed risk assessment provides important information and is a good basis for the Norwegian Food Safety Authority’s further work with acrylamide in food.

Studies in several countries have shown that potato crisps, chips and some types of biscuits contain the most acrylamide, but the material is also found in smaller amounts in coffee, bread, potato tortillas and other fried foods.

“The Norwegian Food Safety Authority ordered this risk assessment from the Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food Safety to find out if the Norwegian population consumes as much acrylamide through food as EU residents,” said authority senior advisor Anders Tharaldsen.

“The conclusion that acrylamide from foods may increase the risk of developing cancer is therefore also relevant for the Norwegian population. This is an important factor in our further work with this issue, both in terms of regulations and advisories.”

To help mitigate potential human health risks, the FDA’s November draft guidance recommends that companies be aware of the levels of acrylamide in the foods they produce and consider adopting approaches, if feasible, that reduce acrylamide in their products. The draft guidance also offers a range of possible approaches that growers, manufacturers and food service operators can take to help reduce acrylamide levels.

The draft guidance, which is non-binding, covers raw materials, processing practices, and ingredients affecting potato-based foods (such as French fries and potato chips), cereal-based foods (such as cookies, crackers, breakfast cereals and toasted bread) and coffee, each of which is a significant source of acrylamide exposure.