The Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.) on Nov. 14 issued draft guidance for the food industry to help growers, manufacturers and food service operators take steps to reduce levels of acrylamide in certain foods.

The F.D.A noted efforts to reduce acrylamide levels already were under way in many sectors throughout the food industry. In issuing its draft guidance, the agency said it seeks to support industry sectors that have taken a “wait-and-see approach,” and to help all companies, particularly smaller ones with fewer resources, reduce acrylamide in products susceptible to its formation.

Acrylamide is a chemical that may form in some foods during certain types of high-temperature cooking, such as frying, roasting and baking. The F.D.A. said acrylamide in food is a concern because the National Toxicology Program (an interagency program that evaluates possible health risks associated with exposure to certain chemicals) has characterized the substance as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.”

The F.D.A. said to help mitigate potential human health risks, its draft guidance recommends that companies be aware of the levels of acrylamide in the foods they produce and consider adopting approaches, if feasible, that reduce acrylamide in their products. The draft guidance also offers a range of possible approaches that growers, manufacturers and food service operators may take to help reduce acrylamide levels.

The draft guidance, which is non-binding, covers raw materials, processing practices, and ingredients affecting potato-based foods (such as french fries and potato chips), grain-based foods (such as cookies, crackers, breakfast cereals and toasted bread) and coffee, each of which is a significant source of acrylamide exposure.

The F.D.A. said the draft guidance was part of a number of activities initiated by the agency to study acrylamide in food and help manage potential risks to human health. For example, the F.D.A. said it is planning to publish additional data on acrylamide levels in certain foods based on its recent data collection and analysis. A summary of the F.D.A.’s acrylamide work is available in a question-and-answer form the agency’s web site. 

The agency said because acrylamide is found primarily in potato-based foods, grain-based foods and coffee, for consumers, the F.D.A.’s best advice to help limit one’s acrylamide intake is to adopt a healthy eating plan, consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, that: emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products; includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts; and is low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium) and added sugars.