European Union regulators overhauled proposed guidelines for a naturally occurring chemical in many foods after an industry group voiced concerns about them, according to a report Wednesday in The Guardian.
The paper cited leaked documents regarding proposed regulations for acrylamide, a chemical that occurs in starchy foods such as potatoes, bread and coffee when they are cooked at high temperatures and undergo "browning" due to what is known as the Malliard Reaction.
The European Food Safety Authority's Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain said last summer that the chemical's presence in food "increases the risk of developing cancer for consumers in all age groups."
The EFSA also said that regulators should establish limits on acrylamide but did not specify a safe threshold.
A draft written in late June reportedly called for the food industry in Europe to keep acrylamide levels "as low as reasonably achievable" and "at least" below benchmark limits for certain foods.
Industry group Food Drink Europe, however, expressed concerns that the latter provision would lead to strict caps on the chemical. Changes to cooking temperatures, storage methods and ingredients can reduce acrylamide content in foods, but those processes could be costly to producers.
The Guardian reported that the language in question was subsequently removed; instead, the latest draft called for a review of current voluntary standards at least every three years.
One official from a European consumer coalition said that the original language likely would not have established binding limits after all, but critics nonetheless characterized the episode as another example of “undue” industry influence on EU policy.
"Ambitious maximum limits are needed to protect consumers," Nusa Urbancic of ChangingMarkets.org told The Guardian.