Friday, December 25, 2009

Health Canada proposes enzyme use to counter acrylamide

Health Canada proposes enzyme use to counter acrylamide
By Caroline Scott-Thomas
Link to full article below

Health Canada has asked for comments on its proposal that asparaginase enzymes could be used to combat the suspected carcinogen acrylamide in food.

Acrylamide forms naturally during the cooking of starchy foods at high temperatures by a process called the Maillard reaction, in which sugar reacts with an amino acid called asparagine to give baked and fried foods their brown color and tasty flavor.

But the alarm was raised in 2002 when Swedish scientists found unexpectedly high levels of acrylamide in carbohydrate-rich foods and published evidence linking it to cancer in lab rats. Since then, research has poured into the area and industry has rallied to find ways to slash the chemical from foods.

The most attention for acrylamide reduction or removal has focused on the potential of asparaginase enzymes to tackle the problem. The two main players in this area, DSM and Novozymes, both launched their solutions for use by the food industry in 2007, after having licensed the application rights from Frito Lay and Proctor and Gamble.

DSM's Preventase and Novozyme's Acrylaway are said to work in the same way: they convert asparagine into another amino acid called aspartic acid, thus preventing it from being converted into acrylamide. The effect is a reduction in acrylamide in the final product by as much as 90 per cent.

While Preventase is derived from Aspergillus niger, Acrylaway comes from a different strain, Aspergillus oryzae.

Asparaginase is permitted for use in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and Denmark, and has been given a favorable evaluation by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA). Assessment by Health Canada’s scientists has also concluded that the enzyme is safe for food use.

Representative industry body, Food and Consumer Products of Canada (FCPC), said in a statement that it supports the use of asparaginase to reduce consumers’ exposure to acrylamide.

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