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Singapore

Biscuits safe to consume in moderation; ‘impossible’ to prevent occurrence of certain compounds: SFA

SINGAPORE: Biscuits and crackers are safe to consume when eaten in moderation, the Singapore Food Agency said on Friday (Oct 29). 

Consumers are also advised to avoid the excessive consumption of food processed at high temperatures such as fried, baked and roasted items. 

Alongside its advisory, SFA said that it is aware of news reports about the detection of certain compounds in pre-packed biscuits and crackers: Acrylamide, glycidyl fatty acid esters (GE) and 3-MCPD esters. 

The reports described these compounds to be genotoxic carcinogens, also known as chemicals capable of damaging DNA and causing cancer, said SFA. 

However, SFA added that the International Agency for Research on Cancer said there is currently no evidence that "conclusively demonstrates" that these compounds can cause cancer in humans.

“These compounds are naturally formed when food products are processed at high temperatures and low moisture," said SFA. 

“The manufacturing of biscuits and crackers involves food processing at high temperatures and the use of ingredients that contain refined fats and oils. It is therefore expected that acrylamide, GE, and 3-MCPD esters were detected in samples of biscuits and crackers tested."

While it is "impossible" to prevent the occurrence of such compounds in food products, SFA said Singapore adopts an "as low as reasonably achievable" approach for these chemicals, similar to the international standard-setting body for food safety.

Although there are currently no international standards that specify limits for these three compounds, the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) has adopted a code of practices to reduce the levels of these substances in food instead of setting a maximum limit. 

“This means that manufacturers should reduce the presence of these compounds as much as possible, without adversely impacting the food supply chain,” SFA said.

This is similarly followed by other countries such as Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

SFA added that it will continue to keep abreast of the latest scientific developments surrounding these compounds and will continue to monitor these compounds in Singapore's food supply to safeguard the health of consumers.

Earlier this month, a report from the Hong Kong Consumer Council said carcinogens have been found in 60 brands of flour confectionary products, including popular brands such as Oreo and Ritz. Biscuits from Hup Seng, Jacob’s and Julie’s, which are manufactured in Malaysia, were also included.

On Thursday, Malaysia's Health Director-General said that while acrylamide and glycidol were found in biscuits from Hup Seng, Jacob’s and Julie’s, the health risk that comes with consuming them remains low.

Source: CNA/ga(zl)

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