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

Lead Research Organisation: John Innes Centre
Department Name: Contracts Office


The formation of the chemical contaminant, acrylamide, during high-temperature cooking and processing of wheat, rye, potato and other mainly plant-derived raw materials was reported in 2002, and the presence of acrylamide in foods is now recognized as a difficult problem for the agricultural and food industries. Acrylamide causes cancer in laboratory animals and is therefore considered to be probably cancer-causing in humans. It also affects the nervous system and reproduction. Cereals, of which wheat is the most important, generate half of the acrylamide in the European diet, with biscuits, snacks and breakfast cereals being of particular concern. This application is being funded through the BBSRC’s stand-alone LINK scheme. The project will use state-of-the-art techniques for analysing amino acid concentrations in wheat flour, exploit the genetic resources in wheat that have been developed at Rothamsted and the John Innes Centre, including mapping populations, wheat genetic modification (as a research tool) and high-throughput screening of mutant populations, and utilise the latest DNA sequencing techniques to study differences in gene expression between high and low asparagine genotypes. The impact of reductions in acrylamide-forming potential of grain on performance in industrial processes will be assessed by food industry partners.


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