Analysis of acrylamide, a carcinogen formed in heated foodstuffs

J Agric Food Chem. 2002 Aug 14;50(17):4998-5006. doi: 10.1021/jf020302f.


Reaction products (adducts) of acrylamide with N termini of hemoglobin (Hb) are regularly observed in persons without known exposure. The average Hb adduct level measured in Swedish adults is preliminarily estimated to correspond to a daily intake approaching 100 microg of acrylamide. Because this uptake rate could be associated with a considerable cancer risk, it was considered important to identify its origin. It was hypothesized that acrylamide was formed at elevated temperatures in cooking, which was indicated in earlier studies of rats fed fried animal feed. This paper reports the analysis of acrylamide formed during heating of different human foodstuffs. Acrylamide levels in foodstuffs were analyzed by an improved gas chromatographic-mass spectrometric (GC-MS) method after bromination of acrylamide and by a new method for measurement of the underivatized acrylamide by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS), using the MS/MS mode. For both methods the reproducibility, given as coefficient of variation, was approximately 5%, and the recovery close to 100%. For the GC-MS method the achieved detection level of acrylamide was 5 microg/kg and for the LC-MS/MS method, 10 microg/kg. The analytic values obtained with the LC-MS/MS method were 0.99 (0.95-1.04; 95% confidence interval) of the GC-MS values. The LC-MS/MS method is simpler and preferable for most routine analyses. Taken together, the various analytic data should be considered as proof of the identity of acrylamide. Studies with laboratory-heated foods revealed a temperature dependence of acrylamide formation. Moderate levels of acrylamide (5-50 microg/kg) were measured in heated protein-rich foods and higher contents (150-4000 microg/kg) in carbohydrate-rich foods, such as potato, beetroot, and also certain heated commercial potato products and crispbread. Acrylamide could not be detected in unheated control or boiled foods (<5 microg/kg). Consumption habits indicate that the acrylamide levels in the studied heated foods could lead to a daily intake of a few tens of micrograms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acrylamide / administration & dosage
  • Acrylamide / analysis*
  • Acrylamide / blood
  • Carcinogens / administration & dosage
  • Carcinogens / analysis*
  • Carcinogens / metabolism
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Diet
  • Food Analysis*
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Hemoglobins / metabolism
  • Hot Temperature*
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Risk Factors


  • Carcinogens
  • Hemoglobins
  • Acrylamide