Nominated by: DSM
Organisation in nomination: DSM and Novozymes
Acrylamide can arise during the cooking process of foods via reaction of the amino acid asparagine and glucose, and is linked to negative health effects in humans, including cancer. It is particularly formed during the high temperature cooking of plant-based foods with high carbohydrate levels, such as fried and baked potatoes, bread and bakery products and coffee.
Although acrylamide was identified as a potential food safety issue as far back as 2002, it was a European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) opinion on acrylamide in food in 2015 which led the European Commission (EC) to establish its risk management measures.
Whilst adaptation of cooking conditions may help reduce acrylamide formation, the use of asparaginase enzymes was determined as the best way to reduce acrylamide formation in the daily practice of food production.
Production of asparaginase enzymes from genetically engineered microorganisms started a mere 4 years after the potential risk was identified. This was a breakthrough solution, with the enzyme able to help reduce the formation of acrylamide during cooking and contributing to the safety of food in Europe.
Enzyme producers DSM and Novozymes developed Aspergillus strains as microorganisms for the over-expression of the enzyme asparaginase, enabling scale of production to meet the needs of the food industry. This would not have been technically and economically viable with classical strains of microorganisms.