Regulatory Status

“We need to have regulation in this area. By that I mean levels so that the industry starts working on how to decrease the amount of acrylamide in their food products,” Jorgen Schlundt, Director of the Danish Technical University's National Food Institute. Schlundt said the EU can't wait another 10 years before doing something about acrylamide, comparing it to salmonella. "We have to think the same way about acrylamide as we do about salmonella or else more people will develop cancer even though we can stop it," the DTU director stated."

March 2013 Source:

As studies confirming the danger of acrylamide are published, regulations limiting it in food are being introduced. There are currently no maximum permissible limits in the US or Europe governing the amount of the carcinogen acrylamide currently allowed in foods and beverages. However, acrylamide has been on the watch list for government authorities for decades prior to the 2002 discovery of its presence in many foods, as it is a regulated chemical for industrial purposes. For example, since 1990, acrylamide has been listed on the State of California's Proposition 65 list of carcinogenic or mutagenic substances as a cancer risk.

In February 2011, acrylamide was added to the Proposition 65 list as also causing reproductive and developmental effects. Any products sold in California that contain a Proposition 65 listed compound must carry a label warning the purchaser that the substance is present in the product. Acrylamide warning signs are posted at many coffee shops in that state. 

Acrylamide is also on the European Union’s Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC) following a unanimous decision by an expert EU health panel.  

In foods and beverages, as new epidemiological studies confirming the acrylamide threat continue to be published each year, regulatory authorities have moved to tighten the management of acrylamide’s allowable amounts in food. The food and beverage industry is paying attention.

In November 2013, both the US FDA and European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) released updated reports on the presence of acrylamide in foods and beverages. The FDA delivered voluntary guidelines designed to encourage food and beverage makers to use the best practices that will reduce the presence of acrylamide in their products.  In Europe, the industry organization FoodDrinkEurope has developed an acrylamide action “tool box” of techniques and strategies for use by food and beverage manufacturers to ensure acrylamide levels in their products do not exceed industry averages. Although improved, these levels are still far higher that the maximum quantities of acrylamide allowed in US drinking water determined by government regulation.

In 2013, the EFSA issued recommendations for acrylamide investigation for various foods ranging from potato products and bread to baby foods and crackers. In addition, EFSA member states have been tasked with conducting reviews of food producer practices and acrylamide levels in various food items, and will be making ongoing reports of those results to the EFSA until April 30, 2015. Moreover, the EFSA is producing a draft opinion on the toxicity of acrylamide for humans and the final report is expected in the first half of 2015.

In September 2013, Health Canada called for data to access the effectiveness of acrylamide reduction strategies in food. Moreover, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency released a study in March 2014 confirming the presence of acrylamide in a wide variety of foods with the highest levels recorded at 2000 parts per billion. As a comparison, the US Environmental Agency has established a Minimum Contamination Level Goal of zero for acrylamide in drinking water and the World Health Organization has set a limit of 0.5 parts per billion in drinking water.