"Purac Act" Cuts Toxins In French Fries And Heat-Processed Foods
Since 2002, when it was first discovered that acrylamide is found in several processed and fried foods, food safety organizations throughout the world have been studying methods to reduce its presence in those foods. Acrylamide, when heated, produces carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and oxides of nitrogen.* Acrylamide has several positive applications industrially, but it is a food toxin.
Of course, potato chips and french fries are at the top of the acrylamide list; they're always at the top of unhealthy food lists, aren't they? You know the rich ’brown’ color they get when they're texture gets crisp? That's acrylamide. And when you brown your toast? That's acrylamide.
Acrylamide results from a heat-induced reaction between a sugar (carbohydrate) and asparagine, an amino acid, found in asparagus, potatoes, legumes, nuts, seeds, soy, and whole grains. Boiling does not seem to induce acrylamide formation, but frying, baking, and broiling do initiate the process.
Purac, a Netherlands-based global corporation, which makes lactic acid and lactic acid derivatives, gluconates and lactides and lactic-acid based biomaterials, used in commercial food preparation, pharmacology and other industries, has developed a high calcium product called Puracal Act, which is claimed to interfere with the chemical process of acrylamide formation. It also minimizes the brown coloring during frying, but still maintains the firmness and crispy nature of fried and processed foods, like snacks and cereals.
Inge Evers, a senior application technologist at Purac, said: “Puracal Act allows more flexibility in the production process because it does not require extra time or special temperatures to be effective. Typical variations in pH or moisture content in the snack process will not affect the performance of Puracal Act in acrylamide reduction.”
Puracal Act sounds very promising for process foods. It's not just french fries and potato chips that have been found to be high in acrylamide. It's found in packaged breakfast cereals, candy bars, certain baby foods, roasted coffee beans.... black olives are super high in acrylamide. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been testing products for the last several years; you can access its acrylamide food lists for the years 2003 to 2006 here.
The World Health Organization (WHO) created an official report on the extent of acrylamide in processed foods in a study of food oxidation as a heat reaction. The report, called HEATOX, can be accessed here. The following are (slightly edited) recommendations from the WHO to each country's food authorities:
- Use low sugar potato varieties
- Maintain suitable storage temperature during the supply chain
- Use low sugar levels in prefabricated potato products for domestic frying
- Frying temperature in the range 145 to 170°C for deep frying potatoes
- Clear and accurate cooking instructions on the package of pre-fried products
- Clear and accurate instructions for fryers for domestic use
- Fry golden, not brown!
- French fries and roast potatoes cooked to a golden-yellow rather than golden-brown
- Bread toasted to the lightest color acceptable
- Consumption : "Balance the diet as proposed in national dietary recommendations and integrate acrylamide considerations into the “normal” dietary recommendations.
Until the food industry has incorporated some of the new toxin-reducers into its processing, it's probably best to stay away from the high acrylamide foods and, again, keep track of them on the food lists at the USDA.
Let's see how fast the new Purac Act becomes a fact!