The deck is stacked against baked foods with highly colored crusts or made by high-temperature processes. Heat over 120ºC can trigger the formation of acrylamides from the amino acid asparagine present in many proteins. Acrylamide is a World Health Organization Group IIA carcinogen shown to be mutagenic and neurotoxic in a variety of laboratory animal studies. It occurs in common foods such as bread, toast, potato chips, fries, cereals and coffee. Children are most at risk because studies show they daily consume twice as much acrylamide as adults on a per kilogram body weight basis.
Renaissance Ingredients, Inc., Vancouver, BC, has used adaptive evolution — a classical, non-GMO technique used widely in the food industry — to develop a strain of bakers yeast with an accelerated natural ability to consume asparagine. The acrylamide-reducing (AR) yeast has been found to reduce acrylamide by 80% in bread and up to 95% in other foods.
Renaissance Ingredient’s president, Matthew Dahabieh, PhD, briefed Baking & Snack about the company’s AR yeast in an exclusive interview.
Baking & Snack: Does your acrylamide-reducing (AR) yeast fully replace conventional bakers yeast in yeast-leavened products? Or is it used to supplement the activity of yeast already present in the formulation?
Matthew Dahabieh: Because our non-GMO acrylamide-reducing yeast (ARY) is derived from an industrial bakers yeast, it can be used to complement, or even substitute, conventional bakers yeast in any yeast-leavened product.
In-house testing in baking applications indicates that the yeast exhibits comparable baking performance to conventional yeast. But with its ability to consume asparagine, the ARY offers the ability to substantially reduce the amount of acrylamide in the end baked product. Our in-house testing has delivered consistent 80% reductions in the acrylamide levels of baked bread.
Importantly however, in bread, acrylamide is more of a concern than perhaps manufacturers are aware of because end-user heating and toasting at home or in restaurant can increase acrylamide levels to seven- to 10-fold higher than the levels found in the untoasted bread. Our acrylamide-reducing yeast reduces the acrylamide levels in dark, medium and light toast by 80%, relative to the toasting and heating of bread baked with conventional yeast.
Importantly, our testing indicates that only minimal, if any, changes in the industrial baking process are required with the use of our AR yeast in any baking application.
Is it being used now for commercial production?
Our AR yeast is currently at a pre-commercial stage, meaning that we are in ongoing licensing discussions with potential partners to bring the AR yeast to market. We anticipate that the yeast will be ready for commercial use by food manufacturers in the near term. Of note, the AR yeast received Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) status from the US Food and Drug Administration in June 2016, the same status as conventional bakers yeast, thereby affirming its safety and appropriate use as a food-grade yeast product.
You indicate AR bakers yeast can be used in non-leavened items such as potato chips and French fries. How is this accomplished?
Our non-GMO AR yeast has an enhanced natural ability to consume asparagine, the precursor in most carbohydrate-based foods that transforms into acrylamide when baked, fried or toasted above 120-degrees-C (248ºF). In fried potato products like potato chips and French fries, our in-house laboratory tests showed the application of our AR yeast leads to a 70% reduction in acrylamide in the eventual fried potato product, under the conditions tested. We anticipate that by further developing this application we can increase the efficacy of the ARY, all the while minimizing process and product disruption.
To use the AR yeast in processed potatoes, raw potato products are soaked for a period of time in a solution of the AR yeast and water. Typically, half of the asparagine is consumed very quickly (seconds), and the 70% reduction was found after soaking for a few minutes. After treatment, the potatoes can be further processed in the usual way. If manufacturers are concerned about residues of AR yeast possibly being left on the potato products after the AR water wash, they can do a quick water rinse to remove any residual amount.
Additionally, our testing indicates that using the AR yeast in this way offers consistent and predictable results that give product manufacturers the ability to precisely control its effects. It also should deliver a much greater reduction with thinly sliced raw potato products like hash browns or shoe string potatoes because there is more surface area exposing more asparagine to the AR yeast. We believe that refinements in the application method or time could increase the percentage reductions in many different potato products.
As for baked goods, in snacks in which bakers yeast is already an ingredient, our AR yeast can complement, or substitute, conventional bakers yeast with minimal change in the production process. In extruded snacks, our yeast can be incorporated into the pre-cooked mix where it begins to consume the asparagine immediately upon contact.
We encourage interested bakery, snack and potato product manufacturers to test our AR yeast in their unique manufacturing processes. Every manufacturer will have different needs, but the good thing is that our AR yeast’s performance is consistent and highly predictable.
What brand name have you given to this yeast?
As of now, we have not created a brand name for the ARY because we anticipate that licensing partners will want to develop their own brands for the ARY in the marketplace.