Published on October 4, 2007
CIAA: CIAA Peter Ashby Breakfast Cereals Sector Breakfast Cereals: Breakfast Cereals Breakfast cereals are a large family of products: Many fundamentally different processes. Varied cereal ingredients including wheat, rice, maize, oats and barley A range for acrylamide from: <30 g/kg to around 700 g/ kg Agronomic factors 1. The crop year:: Agronomic factors 1. The crop year: UK MANUFACTURER ONE: Average content of acrylamide in seven breakfast cereals tracked over crop years. UK MANUFACTURER TWO: Range for a single cereal over two crop years. The nature of the growing season influences acrylamide formation. Agronomic factors 2. Nitrogen fertiliser: Agronomic factors 2. Nitrogen fertiliser Useful knowledge but breakfast cereal is made with soft wheat at the low end of the range of protein for wheat (usually <9%). No further reduction possible on this basis. Breakfast cereal is already in the optimal zone for this issue. Agronomic factors 3. varietal change: Agronomic factors 3. varietal change Crop varieties become obsolete within 3-6 years Faced with a need to replace a variety one can try to select the new variety which maintains or reduces the yield of acrylamide. In this case two lower options and one match existed. Varietal selection can help minimise acrylamide formation. Recipe 1. the grain: Recipe 1. the grain Of the common cereal crops wheat has the greatest capacity for acrylamide formation. A focus on wheat could deliver the largest return. Recipe 2. the grain: Recipe 2. the grain Asparagine mg/kg Wheat bran 112.8 Wheat flour 10.5-18.9 Oat bran 70.8 Oat flour 49.6 Asparagine is concentrated in the bran. Particularly so for wheat. This raises a question of risk-benefit. Much science testifies to the benefits of eating grain which retains the bran. Does the acrylamide issue justify a move towards refined grains for cereal foods? Process: 1: Process: 1 Direct expanded extrusion products usually contain less than 100g per kg regardless of ingredient usage. This process cooks the starch with a minimum of colour and flavour development. Flavour is largely derived from the coatings applied to the cereal. These products are preferred by children. The many other processes involve separate cook and toast steps and show a wider range of acrylamide content. Process: 2: Process: 2 No success could be achieved by controlling toasting. It is finely balanced for breakfast cereal to maintain product identity. As previously reported for some cereals higher toast (near burnt) is associated with less acrylamide. When replacing and upgrading ovens (for example to achieve improved energy efficiency) testing should include verification that acrylamide is not increased. Fundamental research: Fundamental research Some manufacturers have supported fundamental science investigations. The results are being published. They do not presently point to a short term “fix” for breakfast cereals. Summary and recommendations: Summary and recommendations Crop variety selection can help minimise acrylamide formation. The single most useful action for mitigation would be for breeders to develop wheat with a reduced asparagine content. This would benefit everyone who bakes or toasts foods based on wheat.