BBSRC LINK: Producing low acrylamide risk potatoes

Lead Research Organisation: Rothamsted Research
Department Name: Unlisted

Abstract

Acrylamide, a neurotoxin and possible carcinogen, was first reported in cooked foods in 2002, causing considerable disquiet within the food industry and regulatory authorities. Foods with the highest levels of acrylamide are carbohydrate-rich and cooked at high temperatures and the thermal degradation of free asparagine in the presence of sugars during the Maillard reaction is the major route for acrylamide formation. This reaction also generates desirable flavours and colours. Methods for lowering acrylamide in foods include reducing cooking times and temperatures and lowering the pH. However, these methods are reaching the limit of what can be achieved. The use of asparaginase reduces acrylamide levels in certain processed foods but it is ineffective in sliced and chipped potatoes and unsuitable for use in the home. An alternative is to produce raw materials with reduced levels of sugars and asparagine. This is the aim of this project, focusing on potato, a major UK crop with a high acrylamide risk. The strategic target is to produce potatoes that retain sufficient sugars and amino acids for the generation of colour and flavour compounds but which produce less acrylamide.

Outputs of this project will be advanced knowledge of mechanisms regulating asparagine and sugar accumulation in potatoes, the identification of genes underpinning trait variation and proof of concept using transgenic approaches. The project will generate gene-specific markers and improved germplasm for breeding programmes. It will also enable a better understanding of the effects of plant nutrition on acrylamide risk.

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