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Originally published December 25 2007

FDA-Approved Bacteria Blocks Acrylamide Formation in Cooked Foods

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) The FDA has granted Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) status to the use of a bacteria-derived enzyme to prevent the formation of acrylamide in cooked foods.

Acrylamide is a toxic chemical that forms when starchy foods, such as grains or potatoes, are baked, fried or microwaved. The substance is known to be carcinogenic in mice and rats, and is a suspected carcinogen among humans. Acrylamide is also a neurotoxin that, in large doses, may cause muscle pain, nausea, numbness, sweating, speech disorders, urinary incontinence and damage to male reproductive glands. A joint United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives identified acrylamide as a potential human health concern, due to genotoxicity and carcinogenicity.

According to DSM Food Specialties, the company's product PreventASe reduces acrylamide in baked foods by up to 90 percent. PreventASe is simply an enzyme (asparaginase) produced by the bacteria Aspergillus niger that converts a precursor of acrylamide into a different amino acid, rendering acrylamide production impossible.

DSM supplied information to the FDA about the enzyme asparaginase, the mechanism of its production and the manufacturing process. According to the company, the organism A. niger has long been safely used for industrial purposes, including for the production of enzymes -- one of which has previously received GRAS status.

In response, the FDA stated that it sees no reason to question DSM's conclusions as to the safety of asparaginase production from A. niger and its addition to food to reduce acrylamide concentration.

The exact health significance of exposure to dietary acrylamide has been difficult to determine due to the chemical's prevalence in the Western diet. Some scientists have suggested that many people may be exposed to acrylamide through the breakdown of environmental toxins such as glyphosate (the herbicide Roundup). Cigarette smoke and coffee are also significant sources of acrylamide exposure.

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