The science behind the story:
This is the fourth Food Surveillance Information Sheet (FSIS) published by the FSA and is part of a rolling programme, in response to European Commission recommendations, to investigate the levels of acrylamide and furan in retail food. A total of 340 analyses (248 for acrylamide; 92 for furan) were completed from November 2010 – April 2011 on 248 products representing 10 food groups, as specified by the European Commission. Further surveys to establish clearer trends will be carried out for the period 2011-2013. The FSA's rolling survey to measure acrylamide and furan in UK retail products will continue during 2012-2014. This will help the Agency refine its risk assessment, on which its consumer advice is based.
Acrylamide is a chemical produced naturally in food as a result of cooking and processing at temperatures above 120°C. It is formed from a reaction between natural components in food: the amino acid asparagine, and simple sugars. It is less likely to occur in foods cooked at lower temperatures for short periods, such as boiled potatoes.
Furan can be produced in food and drink when naturally occurring sugars, polyunsaturated fats and ascorbic acid (vitamin c) degrade when they are heat treated.