Acrylamide assessment: Flame-grilled spectroscopy

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  • Published: Nov 15, 2016
  • Author: David Bradley
  • Channels: Atomic
thumbnail image: Acrylamide assessment: Flame-grilled spectroscopy

Chips are down

Acrylamide is a toxic natural product formed by the Maillard reaction in some starchy foods. A quick and simple, and cost-effective method for its determination has been developed involving ion-pairing with ?uorescein dye in the presence of nickel(II) ions at pH 9.0 and subsequent extraction for analysis by ?ame atomic absorption spectrometry (FAAS).

Acrylamide is a toxic natural product formed by the Maillard reaction in some starchy foods that have been fried or grilled. It is not found in raw or boiled foods regardless of starch levels. A quick and simple, and cost-effective method for its determination has been developed involving ion–pairing with fluorescein dye in the presence of nickel(II) ions at pH 9.0 and subsequent extraction for analysis by flame atomic absorption spectrometry (FAAS).

The discovery in 2002 that a white, odourless compound prop-2-enamide, commonly known as acrylamide, forms when some starchy foods are cooked led to a flurry of media scare stories about this chemical because it is not only toxic but also a known carcinogen. To date, there is no definitive evidence to suggest that the presence of acrylamide in cooked foods, such as chips, crisps and bread, represents a health risk. Nevertheless, a general feeling of chemophobia persists in many quarters and the tabloid media continues to sensationalise the problem.

Crisp technique

Of course, acrylamide is an industrial chemical used to make polyacrylamides used as thickening agents. It is also used in wastewater treatment, papermaking, the processing of metal ores, tertiary oil recovery, and dye and fabric manufacture. It is a hazardous substance that has known toxic effects on the nervous system and on fertility. However, the health problems associated with this compound occur at levels thousands of times higher than anyone might ingest eating a sandwich. In contrast, tobacco represents a significant source of acrylamide ingestion for smokers and may well add to the overall carcinogenicity of cigarettes way beyond the potato chip risk factor.

Chemists Nail Altunay, Ramazan Gürkan, and Ulaş Orhan of the University of Cumhuriyet, in Sivas, Turkey, explain in the journal Talanta how a method for testing acrylamide levels in foods commonly consumed by children is important in terms of understanding cancer epidemiological data on whether or not the compound poses a risk even at low levels. They have the validated their technique in terms of limits of detection and quantification showing a relative standard deviation lower than 6.3% and an extractive recovery rate higher than 95% for samples spiked with acrylamide spiked at microgram levels. In the present study, the team used ultrasonic-assisted cloud point extraction (UA-CPE) to help them reduce background noise and to enhance the analytical signal after separation and pre-concentration of the target analyte from food matrices, as such the technique could represent a more effective analytical approach than the myriad hyphenated chromatographic mass spectrometric available for its detection.

Concentration needed

"The method was successfully applied to the indirect determination of acrylamide in the processed foods and two certified reference materials with satisfactory results," the team reports. The technique has good sensitivity across a wide working range and can detect acrylamide at microgram per kilogram or per litre levels, which is the team says "very satisfactory". The researchers point out that on the basis of known toxicity and carcinogenicity properties, "we can say that acrylamide creates a risk for human health only in the cases of long term exposure to it."

Related Links

Talanta 2016, 161, 143-150: "A preconcentration method for indirect determination of acrylamide from chips, crackers and cereal-based baby foods using flame atomic absorption spectrometry"

Article by David Bradley

The views represented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of John Wiley and Sons, Ltd.

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