From 2018 onward, food manufacturers across Europe will be subject to regulations aimed at reducing the content of the chemical compound acrylamide in roasted, baked and fried products.
Acrylamide is produced during certain types of cooking, particularly in starchy foods such as potatoes, flour and coffee. The substance is controversial because, according to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) experiments with animals have shown that it increases the risk of cancer.
And while this might not be good news for the many food factories and stands, bakeries and snack bars in every German city, consumer groups see it as an achievement.
“Today we have taken an important step towards protecting the health and well-being of our citizens," EU health commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis said in July when a draft of the report was approved.
The new rules are aimed primarily at professional food producers and processors, but the EU Commission aim for as little acrylamide as possible to be produced while cooking at home, too.
Food producers in addition to home cooks are recommended, for instance, to use potato varieties with little starch or to soak fries before frying in order to wash out the starch.
Peter Liese, Christian Democrat (CDU) and EU member of parliament, welcomed the draft's approval. "We have a real health problem with acrylamide. The quantities consumed by young people and adults in particular are substantial,” Liese said.
But the German Hotel and Restaurant Association (DEHOGA) called the regulation disproportionate, superfluous and bureaucratic. Instead of imposing “ludicrous demands” and conditions on businesses, the public should be informed, the association stated.
In summer last year, 22 EU member states voted in favour of the new rules, while Germany along with five other countries abstained.