The European Commission (EC) has moved to strengthen regulations on acrylamide, the chemical compound found in certain foods such as potato chips and French fries, which has links to cancer.

Foodnavigator.com said on 10 November that a revision to legislation included two articles, one requiring member states to monitor progress on an annual basis to ensure acrylamide levels were below indicative values.

A second article threatened “maximum levels for acrylamide” if food manufacturers did not apply Codes of Practice relating to the compound.

Food campaigners, meanwhile, have called for a legally-binding level for different food categories with independent enforcement.

They have also said that the EC’s indicative values are higher than those put forward by Denmark, Germany and those published by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in 2012.

“The regulation’s existence will prevent member states from deciding on stricter measure,” said Corporate Europe Observatory CEO Martin Pigeon, in a letter to the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis

Acrylamide is formed from the amino acid – asparagine – which is found in many vegetables, with higher concentrations in some varieties of potatoes. When heated to high temperatures in the presence of certain sugars, asparagine can form acrylamide. High-temperature cooking methods above 120C – such as frying, baking or roasting – have been found to produce acrylamide, while boiling and microwaving appear less likely to do so.

The World Health Organization and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization have stated that the levels of acrylamide in foods pose a “major concern”.

The EFSA noted in June 2015 that acrylamide “potentially increases the risk of developing cancer for consumers in all age groups”.

A vote on the EC’s draft regulation will take place in 2017, an EU spokesperson has told EurActiv.com

FoodDrinkEurope communications director Florence Ranson said in the EurActiv report that the EC’s proposal was not based on self-regulation, but used existing Codes of Practice to check mandatory compliance with indicative levels.

“Non-compliance with indicative levels means enforcement bodies can apply sanctions,” she said.

“There has been a proven 53% reduction of acrylamide in savoury snacks over the last nine years.”

She said that if maximum limits were put in place, these would be too static and would not encourage businesses to do more to further reduce acrylamide.