Acrylamide is most commonly known as an industrial chemical used to produce paper, dyes, and plastics and to treat drinking water and wastewater, to remove contaminants before use or reuse, respectively. Acrylamide forms in certain foods when cooked at high temperatures (greater than 120oC). The major foods in which acrylamide has been detected are fried or roasted potato products, coffee and cereal-based products (sweet biscuits, bread, rolls and toast).
It is not clear if acrylamide increases the risk of cancer among humans. Acrylamide has been shown to cause cancer when given to laboratory animals in their drinking water at much higher levels than those that humans would be exposed to in foods. So far, human studies have not identified conclusive evidence that acrylamide increases the risk of cancer in people. For some types of cancer, including kidney and ovarian, the results have been mixed, but there are currently no cancer types for which there is a clear increased risk associated with acrylamide intake. Similarly, occupational exposure to acrylamide has not been shown to increase the number of new cancers in exposed workers.
Based on the data from laboratory animals the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies acrylamide as a probable human carcinogen (cancer causing substance). IARC is a part of the World Health Organisation which convenes international expert working groups to evaluate the evidence of the carcinogenicity of specific exposures.