Acrylamide content in animal feed – don’t overcook the risk

Paul Featherstone, Procurement Director of Sugarich, says that the feed industry can manage risks posed by acrylamides by being prepared now.

The signs are there There’s wisdom in hindsight, but a wiser person might say that by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. Acrylamides are not an unknown risk in the (human) food industry.

Formed when starchy foods, such as potatoes, are baked or fried at high temperature (above 120°C), acrylamides have been associated with risk to human health, such as nerve damage. It has also been recorded as a cause of cancer in animals, through other means of exposure in water or soil. It is assumed that the cancer risk is very possible in humans, but to what degree is still uncertain. To date, laboratory studies have only revealed the risk of cancer developing after exposure to high amounts of acrylamides in rats and mice. Suffice it to say, it was enough to cause a health concern.

Prepare now While it’s not a topic often discussed in the mainstream press, there has been sufficient exposure on acrylamides to have persuaded some consumers to adjust their food preparation methods, and to avoid over- cooking the starches in their diet. It’s been enough of a worry to attract attention from the NHS, prompting cancer warnings after the Food Standards Agency (FSA) launched a campaign to raise awareness of potential acrylamide risk. Eating burnt toast suddenly became a high-risk breakfast activity. However, we must learn from experience and past regulatory

challenges and consider now what the ramifications are for acrylamide exposure into the animal food chain may be. The food and feed industries could exercise prudence in advance and be well positioned to manage properly identified risks without being alarmist. We must determine accurately what levels of acrylamide pose

a significant threat to livestock, and put reasonable and effective measures in place to curb it. Food and feed manufacturers, scientists and regulators must work in conjunction to effect the correct changes and adjust nutrition needs appropriately. Preparation now will influence the future of feed manufacture

and supply.

Initial regulations to build on Presently, there are no legal limits of acrylamides set for human consumption (or indeed animal consumption), although there are best practice guidelines and benchmark levels provided by the Food Standards Agency. There is even an ‘acrylamides toolbox’ maintained by Food Drink Europe, setting out mitigation methods. In the UK however, the FSA suggests the following basic rules of practice for food business operators to follow under regulation 2017/2158:

• Be aware of acrylamide as a food safety hazard and have a FEED COMPOUNDER JULY/AUGUST 2019 PAGE 25

general understanding of how acrylamide is formed in the food they produce • Take necessary steps to mitigate acrylamide formation in the food they produce, ensuring that levels comply with ALARA (As Low As Reasonably Achievable) principles • Undertake representative sampling and analysis where required, to monitor the levels of acrylamide in their products • Keep appropriate records of measures undertaken, along with sampling plans and results of any testing

As yet there are no such guidelines for livestock consumption.

Data not desperation However human food is treated tends to reflect in animal feed. This is specifically relevant if we make the connection to the former foodstuffs sector, through companies like Sugarich, which use surplus human food to make high grade animal feed. It’s not far-fetched to say that there would be some kind of negative

impact caused by acrylamides in animal food (i.e. carcinogenic effects), but to what extent and how do we mitigate it without throwing the baby out with the bath water? Will the industry respond based on sound research and data, with measures imposed that are appropriate to the actual risk? Or do we face possible blanket bans and the devastating permutations of such action along supply chains, like we have seen with Maleic Hydrazide in root crops? What we should avoid is panic stricken regulation, imposing

unreasonable bans when they aren’t necessary. The knock-on economic and commercial effects could be damaging food and feed manufacturing industries if reasonable mitigation is not adopted. This is why I suggest that we start scanning the horizon now for any potential problems that may arise in our feed industry because of acrylamides. There are signs that there could be trouble ahead, so let’s be ready.

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