The restaurant sector is under threat like never before. In the last few months, we have seen a real struggle from high street restaurants with some of the most well-known chains like Jamie’s Italian on the verge of bankruptcy and the owner of Cafe Rouge and Bella Italia reporting £60m losses.

Speculation as to the reason behind these troubles proposes a number of factors at play. Brexit may be affecting people’s spending habits, resulting in reduced eating out. Meanwhile restaurants looks to source more locally grown ingredients, as certain imported goods may be increasing in price. The rise in use of social media to communicate the diners experience – with customer expectation rising – resulting in increased pressure on restaurants to ‘tick all the customer-experience boxes’. A shift in dietary habits, increase in food allergies, requiring a need for more catering to individual requirements. Whilst the threat of legal action looms overhead if mistakes are made in the safe and hygienic preparation of food, further adding to the restaurateur woes.

As food businesses crumble under the pressure to meet all these requirements, a further blow was deal with the introduction of Regulation 2017/2158 which came into force in 2018, requiring all food businesses to identify potential sources or acrylamide and demonstrate they have taken appropriate action to reduce the levels.

What is Acrylamide?

Acrylamide is a naturally occurring by-product formed when starchy foods are cooked at temperatures over 120ºc. Acrylamide can be formed during the roasting, baking, toasting and frying processes.

The chemical has been linked to cancer in animals during laboratory tests and is considered to be a probable cancer causing substance in humans.

Acrylamide is associated with the following foodstuffs:

  • French fries and other sliced, deep fried potato products made from fresh potato.

  • Roasted potato products and roasted root vegetables.

  • Potato crisps, snacks, crackers and other potato products made from potato dough

  • Bread and bread products e.g. toast or bread crumb coated deep fried /baked products

  • Breakfast cereals (excluding porridge)

  • Bakery products e.g. biscuits, scones and cookies

  • Coffee, roasted and instant and coffee substitutes

How can a food business reduce the risk from Acrylamide?

It is important that acrylamide levels in foods are as low as reasonably achievable through applying appropriate mitigation measures in order to comply with current legislation. To mitigate the possible occurrence of Acrylamide in the products listed above, the following control measure should be employed:

  • Potato products should be stored at a temperature over 6ºc and where possible, potatoes with a lower sugar content should be selected for use e.g. russet.

  • Raw potatoes which are sprouting should not be used. Potatoes should be stored in a dark, cool and dry place before use.

  • If raw potato products are to be deep fried during preparation, one of the following controls should be employed prior to frying:

      • Washing / soaking the product in cold water for 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.

      • Soaking in warm water for a few minutes then rinsing with cold water before frying.

      • Blanching where possible.

  • When frying potato products or products that are bread crumbed or wrapped in pastry, a frying oil should be used that allows the products to be freed at a lower temperature or within a quicker time-frame – fryer oil should be kept between 160ºC and 175ºC and should be cleaned regularly, keeping oil in good condition.

  • Foods should be cooked according to the manufacturer’s instructions e.g. the correct time and temperature.

  • Where breaded or pastry products are grilled or baked, or where potatoes or starchy vegetables are roasted, this should be done following appropriate colour guides and observing the golden rule (see below).

  • Where breaded, pastry or potato products are bought in to be finished in-house, then manufactures cooking or storage instructions should be followed at all times.

Colour guide for french fries: to be used as a guide.

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Colour guide for toast: to be used as a guide.

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