Acrylamide Exposure from the Irish Teenage Diet

Acrylamide is a chemical compound found in carbohydrate rich foods [1]. There has been an increased interest in acrylamide as it has been shown to be a carcinogenic and neurotoxic substance [1]. Neurotoxins are toxins that ‘target the nervous system and disrupt the signalling that allows neurons to communicate effectively’ [2].  An EFSA report on the exposure of acrylamide in European member states shows that main contributors of acrylamide, across Europe, are French fries, potato crisps and coffee [3].

Factors to consider when examining the formation of acrylamide are the ingredients used in the recipe of the product and how the product is produced [4].Temperature has a major effect on the formation of acrylamide in foods; it has been shown that there are high levels of acrylamide in food that are cooked at temperatures above 120°C [4].

In 2005 a set of voluntary guidelines (it was later updated in 2009), called the CIAA ‘toolbox’ was developed to help producers and processors identify ways to lower acrylamide in their products [3]. IBCA (Irish Breakfast Cereals Association) are using this approach and highlight that the main goals for the toolbox approach are to minimize the formation of acrylamide in the cooking phase of making the products, to ensure foods are not over baked or toasted and to maintain a uniform colour of the products. [4]

The occurrence data from the year 2007 from the EFSA report ‘Results on Acrylamide level in food monitoring years 2007 – 2009 and exposure assessment’ was used in this project. This occurrence data is the most relevant information to the National Teens’ Food Survey (NTFS); NTFS was carried out in 2006 and therefore the 2007 EFSA occurrence data is the most relevant occurrence data. The mean and 95th percentile (P95), for results covering foods sampled in 2007 was examined; exposure values were measured in microgram per kilogram per day (µg/kg/d). Creme Food was used to do the analysis.

The highest foods consumed in Ireland were soft bread, home cooked potato products (not specified) and French fries. However despite Irish teens consuming high amounts of soft bread, the consumption is lower than other European countries. Danish teenagers have the highest consumption rate of soft bread at an average of 141 g/day [2] compared to Irish teenagers who consume an average of 86.15 g/day.

The Czech Republic has the highest level of exposure to acrylamide and this is partially due to the very high consumption of carbohydrate rich foods. The Czech Republic consume the highest levels of biscuit, fried potato, crisp bread, soft bread and other breads compared to other European countries examined[3]. France on the other hand, has the lowest consumption of fried potatoes and potato crisps, both of which highly contribute to the exposure of acrylamide [3]; this may be a contributing factor as to why France has the overall lowest exposure from acrylamide.

Home cooked potato products (not specified), French fries, other biscuits, oven baked potato products, soft bread and crisps are the greatest contributors to acrylamide in the Irish teens’ diet, as they are also highly consumed. While gingerbread, crisp bread and coffee contribute the least to acrylamide exposure. The reason for this is these foods are the lowest consumed foods in the Irish teen diet.

Using the mean occurrence values for acrylamide reported by EFSA, the mean and P95 exposure were examined and compared against other EU member states. The results showed that Ireland has the second highest exposure to acrylamide out of the European Member states; when looking at both the mean and P95 values. Overall France has the lowest exposure to acrylamide, for both the mean and the P95 values, while the Czech Republic has the highest exposure for both values.

Graph 1: Mean and P95 exposure of acrylamide in European Member States and how Ireland compares

Currently there is no ADI (Acceptable Daily Intake) for acrylamide. While there have been many studies to show tumour growth on mice, there is no concrete evidence to show the same effects in humans. The neurotoxic effects occur at high acrylamide levels of >0.5 mg/kg and results from this project show that nobody (in the selected age group) reached this exposure level. Further research is needed to determine the true effects of acrylamide in humans.  However acrylamide is regarded as a possible carcinogen to humans and therefore exposure should be as low as possible.


  1. Amit Baran Das and Prem Prakas Srivastav, (2011). ‘Acrylamide in snack foods’. Department of Agricultural and Food Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, India
  2. ‘What is a neurotoxin?’ (2011). [Accessed on 11-07/12]
  3. EFSA (2011). Results on Acrylamide levels in food from monitoring years 2007-2009 and exposure assessment.
  4. Irish Breakfast Cereals Association. [Accessed on 11-07/12] 
Written by Creme Global on July 16 2012

Signup for our newsletter