A local research report reveals that prepackaged biscuits contained acrylamide, glycidyl esters (GE) and 3-monochloropropane-1,2-diol esters (3-MCPDE). The public may be concerned that eating biscuits may be bad for human health. While overreaction to such findings is not necessary, consumers and the trade can cooperate to reduce the contents of these contaminants in food and minimise the dietary intakes.

What are Acrylamide, GE and 3-MCPDE?

Acrylamide, GE and 3-MCPDE are contaminants released from food during food processing, and it is unavoidable to be found in food. Acrylamide is formed when carbohydrate-rich food is cooked under high temperatures (e.g. frying, roasting and baking), and it is commonly present in French fries, potato chips and biscuits. GE and 3-MCPDE are mainly found in refined vegetable oils under high temperature processing such as palm oil, corn oil and peanut oil. According to International Research on Cancer (IARC), currently there is inadequate evidence in humans for the carcinogenicity of acrylamide, GE and 3-MCPDE. Considering the genotoxicity and carcinogenicity of acrylamide GE and 3-MCPD in experimental animals, IARC has classified acrylamide and GE as “probably carcinogenic to humans” (Group 2A). IARC also classified 3-MCPD as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” (Group 2B).

Risk Assessment Works conducted by the Centre for Food Safety

The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) has conducted risk assessment studies on acrylamide, GE and 3-MCPDE. For examples, the local dietary intake of acrylamide is relatively low when compared with European countries and the United States as indicated in the results of Total Diet Study. The CFS has also conducted studies about the GE content on edible oil and infant formula in the local market. The result reveals that the GE content of the samples collected are lower than that of similar studies carried out by European countries, New Zealand and Australia.

Besides, the CFS has accessed the local dietary intake of 3-MCPDE, and the 3-MCPDE contained in food is unlikely cause adverse health effects. The CFS also conducted risk assessment of the 3-MCPDE content on the biscuit samples collected in the said study, and the result shows that it is not likely to cause adverse health effects upon routine consumption.

Reducing Intakes of Acrylamide, GE and 3-MCPDE in Foods

The public should have little to frown upon maintaining a balanced diet and consuming biscuits in moderation. To build up a healthier consumption habit, consumers can refer ingredient lists and read nutrition labels of packages before purchase, and note the amounts upon consumption.

The CFS has implemented “Trade Guidelines on Reducing Acrylamide in Food” so as to facilitate the trade to reduce the acrylamide content in food (especially potatoes as well as cereal products and stir-fried vegetables). The CFS also promoted the guidelines in the Trade Consultation Forum, and introduced the Codex Code of Practice related to GE and 3-MCPDE to assist the trade in reducing the content of GE and 3-MCPDE in food products.