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New health requirements arriving in April aim to cut the risk from acrylamide caused by browning.

Mike Pomranz
November 30, 2017

If you’re the kind of person who likes your potato chips extra brown or who purposefully seeks out the burnt Cheez-Its, new regulations coming to the European Union might strike you as particularly upsetting. Starting this coming April, EU members, the United Kingdom included, will be cracking down on the cooking temperatures of some foods – particularly potato- and grain-based items like chips, crackers and cookies – to reduce the amount of acrylamide produced during browning after studies have shown that this naturally occurring chemical may cause cancer.

As you may recall, at the start of this year, the U.K.’s Food Standards Agency launched a public service campaign called “Go for Gold,” encouraging people to avoid cooking starchy foods at overly hot temperatures which can increase the production of acrylamide – which the World Health Organization has identified as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” One telltale sign of acrylamide production is the “browning” of things like potatoes and toast, so the idea is that a lighter color means a healthier starchy food.

But beyond public warnings, starting this April, the U.K. government has announced that it may also begin fining commercial producers who don’t prove that they are actively reducing acrylamide levels in the food they sell, according to the Telegraph. As a result, many British brands and restaurants making things like potato chips and French fries may seek to change the way these items are produced.

“Manufacturers will likely cook food at a lower temperature but for longer, meaning the color will become lighter,” Dr. Lisa Ackerley, food safety adviser at the British Hospitality Association, was quoted as saying. “Companies are making good progress on acrylamide already and when you compare the color crisps [potato chips] from a few years ago to now, you find today's are much lighter.” Ackerley stressed that though the color may change, the crunchiness should remain the same.

Interestingly, however, since these guidelines are being dictated by the European Union, it’s possible that the U.K. could potentially choose to reverse course on the browning rules come March 29, 2019 when the country is set to break from the rest of the Europe Union. Who knew Brexit was also a referendum on potato chips

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