The European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA’s) Dietary and Chemical Monitoring Unit has issued an updated report finding little change in the amount of acrylamide produced during food processing since the last data set was released in 2008. Covering 2007-2010, the report used approximately 13,000 data points to monitor the substance, which “typically forms in starchy food products such as potato crisps, French fries, bread, biscuits and coffee, during high-temperature processing, including frying, baking and roasting.” Although EFSA apparently received less input from member states in 2010 than in previous years, it did not find “any considerable change” in acrylamide levels between 2007 and 2010 “for the majority of the food categories assessed.”

“In terms of the results, there were downward trends in acrylamide levels in the category ‘processed cereal-based foods for infants and young children’ and the sub-categories ‘non-potato based savory snacks’ and ‘biscuits and rusks for infants and young children,” stated the agency in an October 23, 2012, news release. “On the other hand, there were rises in the ‘coffee and coffee substitutes’ category and in the sub-categories ‘crisp bread,’ ‘instant coffee’ and ‘French fries from fresh potatoes’ though for the latter this was not consistent across Europe.”

EFSA has also reiterated its 2013 plan to update the European exposure assessment “based on more recent data on acrylamide levels in food as well as new food consumption data.” In the interim, the agency has pledged to work with national food safety authorities and EFSA’s Advisory forum to assess acrylamide’s “possible impact on public health.”

Meanwhile, a recent study has claimed that prenatal exposure to acrylamide is associated “with reduced birth weight and head circumference.” Marie Pedersen, et al., “Birth Weight, Head Circumference, and Prenatal Exposure to Acrylamide from Maternal Diet: The European Prospective Mother-Child Study (NewGeneris),” Environmental Health Perspectives, October 23, 2012. Researchers with the NewGenesis consortium reportedly analyzed data from 1101 mother-child pairs, comparing hemoglobin adducts of acrylamide and its metabolite glycidamide taken from cord blood after birth with foodfrequency questionnaires answered by prospective mothers and information on birth weight, head circumference, gestational age, sex, and mode of delivery obtained from maternity records.

The results allegedly revealed that “maternal consumption of foods rich in acrylamide, such as fried potatoes,” was linked to higher cord blood acrylamide adduct levels and lower birth weights. “This study provides strong evidence that higher prenatal exposure to acrylamide through maternal diet during pregnancy is associated with reduced birth weight and head circumference,” concluded the authors, referencing the use of cord blood to provide “a more accurate assessment” of prenatal exposure to acrylamide during the last months of gestation. “If confirmed in other studies, these findings provide evidence supporting the need for changes in food production and for providing clear public health advice to pregnant women to reduce their dietary intake of foods that may contain high concentrations of acrylamide.”