Recent reports have suggested that the potentially carcinogenic compound acrylamide is formed naturally in certain foods during the cooking process. In 3 October Nature, Donald Mottram and colleagues at the School of Food Biosciences, University of Reading, UK and Richard Stadler and colleagues at the Nestlé Research Center, Lausanne, Switzerland show that Maillard reaction products could be the precursors for the formation of acrylamide.

The Maillard reaction (a non-enzymatic browning reaction) occurs between compounds such amines and carbonyl groups, especially in foods during roasting and baking; Maillard reaction products are responsible for both flavoring and browning in many common foodstuffs.

Both research teams heated a variety of amino acids with an equimolar amount of glucose to a temperature of 180°C for 30 minutes. They observed that heating a combination of asparagine and glucose yielded the most acrylamide — 368 μmol mol-1. A subsequent experiment in...

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