a science-based resource on coffee, caffeine, and health

FAQ: Acrylamide
Is acrylamide safe?

Acrylamide occurs naturally in foods heated at high temperatures, such as frying or baking, during the browning process. The FDA and other regulatory agencies do not recommend that people stop eating fried, roasted, or baked foods because of trace amounts of acrylamide. However, more research is needed to fully understand the effects of acrylamide on human health.


What is acrylamide (AA)?

Acrylamide is a chemical compound that can be formed by cooking starchy foods at high temperatures – at least 248 degrees Fahrenheit. It is formed from the combination of sugars and an amino acid (building block of protein called asparagine) that are naturally present in certain foods. It does not come from packaging or the environment. Charred or burnt foods generally contain higher levels of AA.


Why is acrylamide in coffee?

Green coffee does not contain acrylamide; however, once coffee is roasted, acrylamide is found in very small quantities. This is a natural occurrence  when coffee is roasted; acrylamide is not added to coffee by manufacturers.


How much acrylamide is found in foods and beverages?  

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has published an assessment of acrylamide in foods, including the concentrations outlined below. The FDA also notes that brewed coffee represents less than 1% of Americans’ intake of acrylamide from food. 


Average Acrylamide Concentration
(µg/kg or ppb)*

Potato chips


French fries (restaurant)


French fries (oven-baked)


Canned black olives


Prune juice


Breakfast cereal


Postum (coffee substitute)


Brewed Coffee


* µg/kg = micrograms per kilogram, which is also referred to as ppb or parts per billion. For perspective, 1 ppb would be equivalent to about 3 seconds in a century or 3 ounces in 100,000 tons.


Is there a health concern?

Acrylamide is found in very small quantities in roasted coffee. Although acrylamide has been shown to cause cancer in rodents exposed to very high levels of the compound in their drinking water, AA is considered unlikely to have these effects at levels encountered in human foods.


Importantly, there is some disagreement in the scientific community as to the relevance of these rodent studies to humans.  Additionally, there is an important need to consider both the potential risks of consuming foods that happen to contain AA weighted against the benefits associated with otherwise consuming those foods.  As for example, there is a growing body of scientific evidence suggesting (but not proving) that coffee consumption may be associated with health benefits.


In recent years, despite the hype over the toxic effects of certain chemicals it contains (coffee contains over 1,000 chemicals!), the growing scientific evidence now supports that moderate coffee drinking (3-5 cups/day) may be associated with reduced risk of several diseases.  Those diseases are believed to include: type II diabetes, cancer, liver disease, cardiovascular disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.