Regulators in Europe should do more to help protect consumers from the presence of acrylamide in their food, the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) says.
The organisation is calling on the European Commission to lower the current indicative benchmarks for the carcinogenic acrylamide and make them binding on food producers.
The calls follow a Europe-wide test exploring the presence of acrylamide in foods.
Ten consumer groups sampled over 500 food products known to contain acrylamide – such as crisps, biscuits, coffee or breakfast cereals.
Regular biscuits and wafers are especially problematic, with a third of samples at or above the acrylamide benchmarks.
Such findings are worrying as children under 3 often consume such products, which are allowed to contain more acrylamide than biscuits intended for babies.
However, when checked against the lower benchmark for baby biscuits, almost 2 in 3 ‘regular’ biscuits tested are not suitable for young children.
BEUC also requests the EU Commission to come up with benchmarks for vegetable crisps. Tests show that on average crisps made of carrots, beetroots or parsnips contain almost twice as much acrylamide as the potato versions, although they are often perceived as healthier options.
“This EU-wide test proves that it is possible to produce crisps, chips or cereals with low acrylamide content,” said Monique Goyens, Director General of BEUC.
“But as long as the measures are voluntary, some manufacturers will not take the issue seriously and consumers might still be exposed to high acrylamide levels.
“To oblige food makers to pay more attention to this contaminant, the EU Commission must set binding limits, as we have repeatedly called for.
“Many parents give their young children biscuits and wafers that are primarily intended for older children and adults.
“The Commission should then propose to bring down the acrylamide benchmark for regular biscuits, so it gets closer to the one for baby biscuits. That would more efficiently protect our little ones, who are most vulnerable to acrylamide effects due to their lower bodyweight.
“This test also reveals that vegetable crisps are not as healthy as they seem to be. Until binding limits are set, the Commission should at least define indicative benchmarks for acrylamide in these trendy snacks to force producers to minimise the presence of this harmful substance.”