Under the right conditions, heating or frying starchy foods can cause acrylamide to form. In 2004, Swedish researchers found acrylamide, a known animal carcinogen, present in bread crusts, albeit at very low levels.
Researchers speculate that carbohydrates and the amino acid L-asparagine interact under comparatively high heat (250°F and above). The offending acrylamide is more often found in small-piece, low-moisture carbohydrate foods such as potato chips, crisp breads and thin cookies than in large moist products like conventional bread.
A recently commercialized enzyme, asparaginase, provides an answer to this problem, as well as an excellent example of the specificity of today’s enzyme choices. It converts asparagine into aspartate (aspartic acid), another naturally occurring amino acid.
“PreventASe, an asparaginase enzyme from Aspergillus niger, gives reductions in acrylamide levels of up to 90% in a wide variety of foods, without changing the finished product characteristics,” reported Margarida Branco, communications officer, DSM Food Specialties, Delft, The Netherlands.
“Acrylaway asparaginase is new to the baking category and is a proven solution in cookies, crisps, breads, biscuits, snacks and crackers,” explained Anders Espe Kristensen, business development and marketing director, Novozymes A/S Bagsvaerd, Denmark.
Merna Legel, vice-president, Lallemand Baking Solutions, Addison, IL, pointed out that Acrylaway and other asparaginase enzymes deal effectively with acrylamide levels found in bakery and snack foods and items where formation is accelerated through toasting. The enzymes is especially useful “when other forms of mitigation are not possible or sufficient.”
The Snack Food Association plans a conference about acrylamide formation in foods. It takes place June 6-7 at The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH. Details are available at www.sfa.org.