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Food technology expert: New Maine potato varieties ‘have much lower levels of acrylamide than Russet Burbank’

Food technology and human nutrition specialist at the University of Maine, Professor Mary Ellen Camire, has some good news about french fries. Those made with the new potato varieties AF4296-3 and Easton have much lower levels of the probable carcinogen acrylamide than those made with the popular Russet Burbank variety.

For those envisioning the safer-to-eat, golden brown, crispy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside fries with a sprinkle of sea salt and a splash of vinegar, hold that thought. The new spud varieties don’t turn golden brown when they’re fried. They turn whitish.

The University of Maine professor of food science and human nutrition says they still have the crispy texture, familiar flavor and smell of freshly cooked french fries. Forty-seven tater taste testers testified to that — rating the aroma, taste and texture of fries made with AF4296-3 and Easton potato varieties similar to Russet Burbank.

But they rated the whitish color of the new varieties significantly lower. An education or promotion campaign is likely needed to let the public know about the merits of the less-than-golden fry, says Camire, who conducted the pilot study with colleagues, including Gregory Porter, who heads the UMaine potato breeding and variety development program.

Says Camire: “It took years to convince consumers to switch from whole milk to low-fat or skim milk. Hopefully changing consumer acceptance of these fries will not take as long.”

Camire also notes that acrylamide is found in many foods that are baked, roasted or fried, but since frying is the most popular method for cooking potatoes, we wanted consumers to have a safer alternative developed by traditional breeding practices.

Source: News Briefs, Dec 2020, Univ of Maine
Research study: Johnson, A.M., Porter, G., & Camire, M.E. 2019.  Low-acrylamide french fry acceptance: a pilot study.  Journal of Food Sciencehttps://doi-org.prxy4.ursus.maine.edu/10.1111/1750-3841.14844
Contact: Prof Mary Allen Camire
Photo: Boston Globe

Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher of Potato News Today

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