Foods are thermodynamically unstable and all manner of reactions may take place which may lead to profound changes in the food, sometimes adding to the desirability of the food or creating a hazard. ( British Journal of Nutrition vol 99, supplement 2 April 2008).
The chemical compound acrylamide (acrylic amide) has the chemical formula C 3H 5N O. Its IUPAC name is 2-propenamide, for use in wastewater treatment, gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE), papermaking, ore processing, and the manufacture of permanent press fabrics. Some acrylamide is used in the manufacture of dyes and the manufacture of other monomers.
Acrylamide was accidentally discovered in foods by scientists in Sweden who found large amounts of the chemical in starchy foods, such as potato chips, French fries and bread that had been heated (production of acrylamide in the heating process was shown to be temperature-dependent
Acrylamide production in food is a consequence of the Maillard reaction between asparagines and reducing sugars
The product is a genotoxic carcinogen. There are two important points here. Such carcinogens have no threshold concentration and there is no data for carcinogenic consequences in man.
The amount of acrylamide formation depends upon the concentration and availability of the precursors in the food. This is affected by variety, growing conditions, time of harvest and storage of the product.
Potatoes, cereals and coffee are the most important sources of acrylamide formations. The reaction depends upon the temperature, heat intensity and water activity .
There is a detailed and definitive review iby Seal et al ( 2008) which describes in detail the complexities of the creation of this unwanted addition to the diet.Seal et al 2008 Risk –benefit considerations of mitigation measures on acrylamide content of foods- a case study on potatoes, cereals and coffee .British Journal of Nutrition vol 99 suppl 2, ppS1-38