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Nestle and Heinz blamed for acrylamide over-use

By Ji Beibei (Global Times)

08:09, April 25, 2012

Analysts yesterday emphasized the need to develop better food processing technology after the UK food safety agency said high amounts of acrylamide were found in food brands including Nestle and Heinz, creating a potential risk of cancer.

Chinese consumers expressed concern over the news yesterday.

"I do not know what to eat and drink now after so many scandals in China in recent years," said Zhang Dong, a Beijing resident.

The Beijing Times newspaper yesterday reported that a test of over 284 kinds of food by the Food Standards Agency in the UK revealed that the amount of acrylamide in 13 products is rising.

Some of them are well-recognized products like Nestle's instant coffee and Heinz's children's biscuits.

The agency said the acrylamide chemical can enhance cancer risk in the long term though it poses no immediate danger.

Acrylamide is a cooking byproduct associated with frying, baking, roasting or toasting foods at very high temperatures, usually greater than 120 C.

WTO experts have also talked about a correlation between acrylamide and various types of cancer, according to a report by China Radio International (CRI) yesterday.

The coffee in question in the UK is also available in China, He Tong, public relations manager at Nestle China told the Global Times yesterday.

"But there is no need to panic or change drinking habits," He said, noting that acrylamide is ubiquitous in processed foods.

US food giant Heinz yesterday said that all the Heinz products sold in China are safe and the type of biscuits in question are not sold in China, according to CRI yesterday.

Song Liang, a dairy industry analyst at the Distribution Productivity Promotion Center of China Commerce, said yesterday that high amounts of acrylamide are more of a processing technology issue, and "food producers should speed up improvements in processing technology to reduce potential health risks."

"Rising production costs and an ongoing discovery of new risks brought by a worsening environment are two major reasons why consumers are more frequently exposed to food safety risks," Song told the Global Times.

There is no uniform standard concerning acrylamide amounts in food products in China or worldwide.

Scientists have appealed to producers and brands to decrease the amount of acrylamide in food products since 2002.

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