Risk Level for Acrylamides

By Loretta Macktal, Executive Assistant to the Vice President, Government Relations

Capitol Update, July 16, 2004 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) is planning to release guidelines for a "No Significant Risk Level" (NSRL) for acrylamide next Tuesday, July 20th to the Office of Administrative Law. Based on previous work plan drafts and meetings, CMTA anticipates the NSRL will be reduced from the 0.2 micrograms per day adopted in 1990.

The definition of what type of posting or notices will be eventually required is not the major issue now (and will be resolved before the end of the year). OEHHA could require posting Proposition 65 type warnings on products and in businesses where acrylamide containing products are present (primarily restaurants, fast food locations, bakeries, grocery stores and most food manufacturing facilities). The major issue is the change in the risk designation which may create liability concerns. McDonald’s and Burger King have already been sued for non compliance with Prop 65 requirements. The judge has placed an injunction on the case due to the fact that OEHHA has been studying the issue and resolution of a standard was imminent.

Former Deputy Commissioner Les Crawford wrote to OEHHA that the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) believes that "California should not require warning labels for foods under Prop 65 before completion of scientific studies adequate to assess the potential risk to consumers and until FDA determines the appropriate risk management based on FDA’s risks assessment." They caution that warning label requirements might encourage manufacturers to take premature steps to remove acrylamide from food by introducing additives or changing cooking processes. Such steps could have unforeseen consequences. Furthermore, some concern was voiced that a "scare" of this magnitude could shift diets away from healthy and beneficial foods.

Although studies have shown that acrylamide produces cancers in rats, there are no studies that show that the same is true in humans. When foods containing sugars or protein are baked, broiled or fried (as is true of most cooked foods), acrylamide is naturally produced. Acrylamide can be found in 40% of the calories we consume. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has detected acrylamide in grilled asparagus and other vegetables, prune juice, coffee, potato products, vegetarian burgers, olives, bagels, bread crumbs, pizza crust, tortillas, breakfast cereals, almonds and other nuts, peanut butter, chocolate, baked beans, dried soups, macaroni and cheese, french fries, dips, and onion rings, to name just a few. Acrylamide by its very nature has been in the human diet since the beginning of man cooking over a fire.

The fact remains that OEHHA’s anticipated ruling is not based upon sound science as it relates to the effect on humans. Therefore, a ruling at this time is premature. If FDA findings later show that the findings are unfounded, businesses in this state will have been needlessly impacted.

CMTA is urging the Schwarzenegger Administration to:

1. Delay release of regulations proposed by OEHHA for 90 days to provide the Administration with adequate time to assess the issue and recommend action;
2. Coordinate all activities with FDA to take advantage of and await significant developing scientific information in determining a course of action; and
3. Develop a long-term proactive solution to address the issue of chemicals naturally occurring in food and beverages under Prop 65.

If your company would like to go on record opposing OEHHA's release of a new NSRL, please contact mrogge@cmta.net.
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