Reducing the risk of acrylamide and other processing contaminant formation in wheat products

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Kaur, N. and Halford, N. G. 2023. Reducing the risk of acrylamide and other processing contaminant formation in wheat products . Foods. 12 (17), p. 3264.

AuthorsKaur, N. and Halford, N. G.

Wheat is a staple crop, consumed worldwide as a major source of starch and protein. Global intake of wheat has increased in recent years and overall wheat is considered to be a healthy food, particularly when products are made from whole grains. However, wheat is almost invariably processed before it is consumed, usually via baking and/or toasting, and this can lead to the formation of toxic processing contaminants, including acrylamide, 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Acrylamide is principally formed from free (soluble, non-protein) asparagine and reducing sugars (glucose, fructose and maltose) within the Maillard reaction and is classified as a Group 2A carcinogen (probably carcinogenic to humans). It also has neurotoxic and developmental effects at high doses. HMF is also generated within the Maillard reaction but can also be formed via the dehydration of fructose or caramelisation. It is frequently found in bread, biscuits, cookies, and cakes. Its molecular structure points to genotoxicity and carcinogenic risks. PAHs are a large class of chemical compounds, many of which are genotoxic, mutagenic, teratogenic and carcinogenic. They are mostly formed during frying, baking and grilling due to incomplete combustion of organic matter. Production of these processing contaminants can be reduced with changes in recipe and processing parameters, along with effective quality control measures. However, in the case of acrylamide and HMF their formation is also highly dependent on the concentrations of precursors in the grain. Here we review the synthesis of these contaminants, factors impacting their production and the mitigation measures that can be taken to reduce their formation in wheat products, focussing on the role of genetics and agronomy. We also review the risk management measures adopted by food safety authorities around the world.

KeywordsAcrylamide; Asparagine; Food safety; Free amino acids; Hydroxymethylfurfuryl; Maillard reaction; Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; Processing contaminants; Reducing sugars; Wheat
Year of Publication2023
Journal citation12 (17), p. 3264
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Web address (URL)
Open accessPublished as ‘gold’ (paid) open access
FunderBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Lawes Agricultural Trust
Funder project or codeDefining the signalling network linking pathogen infection and asparagine accumulation in wheat grain
Publisher's version
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online30 Aug 2023
Publication process dates
Accepted27 Aug 2023

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