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Low acrylamide wheat

Genetic improvement of wheat to reduce the potential for acrylamide formation during processing


The presence of acrylamide in foods is now recognized as a difficult problem for the agricultural and food industries. Acrylamide is classified as probably carcinogenic to humans, based on its carcinogenic action in rodents; it also has neurological and reproductive effects. The levels of acrylamide in foods are orders of magnitude lower than those used in toxicology studies and it is not possible to say with conviction how much risk, if any, dietary acrylamide represents. Nevertheless, the food industry is striving to reduce the levels of acrylamide in its products to as low as reasonably achievable (ALARA) and the European Commission has set 'indicator' levels for acrylamide in different food products. Cereals, of which wheat is the most important, generate half of the acrylamide in the European diet.

The thermal degradation of free asparagine in the presence of reducing sugars (glucose, fructose and maltose) during the Maillard reaction has been shown to be the major route for acrylamide formation and the limiting factor in wheat products is free asparagine. This project seeks to identify currently available varieties and genotypes of wheat that are low in free asparagine and provide wheat breeders with the genetic tools to reduce the concentration of free asparagine further. The impact of reductions in acrylamide-forming potential of grain on performance in industrial processes will be assessed by food industry partners.