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Food Safety Focus (176th Issue, March 2021) – Food Incident Highlight

‘Go for Gold’ When Preparing Baked and Fried Starchy Dishes

With the rising popularity of small home cooking appliances like electric ovens and air fryers, more aspiring home cooks try to prepare new dishes at their own kitchens while upholding social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

When preparing starchy foods such as potatoes, pastries, cookies and bread, the high cooking temperature, usually 120°C or above, favours the formation of acrylamide in the presence of the amino acid asparagine and reducing sugars like glucose and fructose. Acrylamide is a contaminant arising from the cooking process. This substance can harm genes and therefore its intake should be kept as low as possible. One can reduce the risk by ‘going for gold’ when cooking starchy foods. Generally, go for a golden-yellow or lighter colour when cooking starchy dishes, as acrylamide can be reduced by not cooking food at too high a temperature for too long. While it is impractical for consumers to completely avoid acrylamide in food, maintaining a healthy, balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables can help reduce the risk.

Figure 3: Go for a golden-yellow colour when cooking starchy dishes