Study estimates safe intake levels of acrylamide

by Jeff Gelski
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BETHESDA, MD. — News items from both the United States and Europe this month have focused on acrylamide. The tolerable daily intake levels of acrylamide for cancer were estimated to be 2.6 micrograms per kilogram in a study performed by The Sapphire Group, Inc., Bethesda, and appearing Dec. 3 on-line in Food and Chemical Toxicology. The European Chemicals Agency’s member state committee on Dec. 7 put acrylamide on a candidate list for substances of very high concern.

The Sapphire Group provides health science integrated risk management. Researchers said acrylamide is a human neurotoxicant and rat tumorigen that is produced in starchy foods when cooked. They used a physiologically-based model to compare internal doses of acrylamide in humans and rats. Tolerable daily intake levels from acrylamide were found to be 40 micrograms per kilogram for neurotoxicity and 2.6 micrograms per kilogram for cancer. One kilogram is about 2.2 lbs.

According to Health Canada, Ottawa, preliminary calculations suggest the average daily exposure of adults to acrylamide in foods is between 0.3 micrograms and 0.4 micrograms per kilogram. One microgram is one-millionth of a gram.

The European Chemicals Agency (E.C.H.A.) seeks to provide member states and the European institutions with scientific advice on questions related to the safety and the socioeconomic aspects of the use of chemicals. The E.C.H.A. member state committee listed acrylamide as a carcinogen and a mutagen. The candidate list of substances of very high concern will be updated formally in January 2010. Decisions on the need to subject the substances, including acrylamide, to authorization will be taken later.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, acrylamide is a chemical that may form during high-temperature cooking processes. It caused cancer in studies where animals were exposed to it at very high doses. The F.D.A. has yet to determine the public health impact, if any, of acrylamide from the much lower levels found in foods. The F.D.A. is conducting research studies to determine whether acrylamide in food is a potential risk to human health.

The F.D.A. is taking comments, scientific data and information on acrylamide in food until Jan. 25, 2010. Electronic comments and scientific data and information may be submitted through www.regulations.gov.

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