SFA: Biscuits in Hong Kong report safe to eat 'in moderation', no firm evidence they cause cancer

The agency explained that such compounds are naturally formed when food products are processed at high temperatures and low moisture.

Nigel Chua | October 29, 2021, 09:45 AM

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Earlier this month, Hong Kong's consumer watchdog said in a report that it found cancer-causing genotoxic carcinogens glycidol and/or acrylamide, in all 60 pre-packaged biscuit samples it tested.

75 per cent of the products contained three types of contaminants: glycidol, 3-MCPD and acrylamide.

Some of the products tested were Hup Seng Special Cream Crackers, Ritz Crackers Cheese Flavoured Sandwich, Jacob's Original Cream Crackers and Oreo Mini Oreo Original, which had high levels of glycidol.

Meanwhile, Muji's Shiruko Sandwich Cracker was found to have the highest levels of acrylamide among those sampled.

The Singapore Food Agency (SFA) has responded to news reports about the findings from Hong Kong, saying that biscuits and crackers safe to consume in moderation, although consumers should avoid "excessive consumption" of such foods.

The agency said that there is "currently no evidence that conclusively demonstrates that acrylamide, [Glycidyl fatty acid esters], and 3-MCPD esters can cause cancer in humans", citing the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

SFA: Compounds are "naturally formed" due to food processing

In a Facebook post on Oct. 28, SFA explained that the chemical compounds found in the biscuits and crackers are "naturally formed" when food products are processed at high temperatures (e.g. frying, baking, roasting, industrial processing) and low moisture.

It explained that the compound acrylamide would be produced naturally in starchy food due to a reaction between naturally present substances.

As for Glycidyl fatty acid esters (GE), and 3-MCPD esters, SFA said that these are formed when vegetable oil is heated to high temperatures, during the refining process to produce fats and oils that meet quality and safety standards for food manufacturing, and are commonly found in food that contains refined fats or oils.

"It is therefore expected that acrylamide, GE, and 3-MCPD esters were detected in samples of biscuits and crackers tested," said SFA.

SFA explained that there are no international standards that specify limits for these chemical compounds.

However, it said that the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC), the international standard-setting body for food safety, adopts an “As Low as Reasonably Achievable” (ALARA) approach for these compounds.

SFA added:

"This means that manufacturers should reduce the presence of these compounds as much as possible, without adversely impacting the food supply chain. This is because it is impossible to prevent the occurrence of such compounds in food products."

SFA said that consumers should still avoid "excessive consumption" of food processed at high temperatures, such as fried, baked, and roasted food.

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Top photo by Nigel Chua

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