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Following best practice safeguards against acrylamide fears

Fish and chip shops following good practice have no cause for concern about levels of acrylamide in the food they serve, says the industry’s leading trade body.

The statement from the National Federation of Fish Friers (NFFF) follows advice this morning from the Food Standards Agency that consumers should make changes to how they cook certain foods in order to reduce their intake of the chemical over fears it may cause cancer.

Acrylamide is a chemical substance formed by a reaction between amino acids and sugars. It typically occurs when foods with high starch content such as potatoes, root vegetables and bread, are cooked at high temperatures (over 120°C) in a process of frying, roasting or baking.

While laboratory tests show that acrylamide in the diet causes cancer in animals, human studies have so far proved inconclusive yet the scientific consensus is that consumers should take steps to minimise levels of the chemical.

Commenting on the advice, Andrew Crook, vice president of NFFF, says good quality fish and chip shops are already ahead of the game and will be serving food which has low levels of the chemical as a matter of course. He adds: “We’re very lucky because by working to best practice to produce good quality food we’re already reducing the levels of acrylamide to a safe level. It’s the poor quality food that is high in acrylamide."

Andrew supports the FSA’s advice to aim for a golden yellow colour or lighter when frying, and also recommends operators treat chips prior to frying with Drywite All Seasons to reduce the amount of amino acids on the surface of potatoes.

Friers are also reminded of the need to store potatoes correctly in order to reduce the formation of more free sugars in the potatoes (a process sometimes referred to as ‘cold sweetening’) which can increase overall acrylamide levels when fried. Raw potatoes should ideally be stored in a dark, cool place at temperatures above 6°C.

And, finally, Andrew advises friers to keep on top of their oil management, adding: “Acrylamide can build up in the oil, so make sure your oil is not too deep and that you filter it correctly. And make sure you remove any batter too as that can carbonate, so filter well and skim regularly to get the batter out.”

The NFFF has produced a fact sheet on best practice which it is happy to share with the trade.

Andrew adds: “As an industry, we are at risk of the negative publicity because the press like to make the link with fish and chips, so we must be prepared and have the answers ready. Fish and chips, if prepared correctly, will be below the levels that cause concern.”

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