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A Survey of Total Hydrocyanic Acid Content in Ready-to-Eat Cassava-Based Chips Obtained in the Australian Market in 2008

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Cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz) is a widely consumed food in the tropics that naturally contains cyanogenic glycosides (cyanogens, mainly composed of linamarin, acetone cyanohydrin, and hydrocyanic acid). If cassava is not adequately processed to reduce the level of cyanogens prior to consumption, these compounds can lead to the formation of hydrocyanic acid in the gut. Exposure to hydrocyanic acid can cause symptoms ranging from vomiting and abdominal pain to coma and death. In 2008, a survey of ready-to-eat (RTE) cassava-based snack foods was undertaken to determine levels of cyanogens measured as total hydrocyanic acid. This survey was undertaken in response to the New South Wales Food Authority being alerted to the detection of elevated levels of cyanogens in an RTE cassava-based snack food. This survey took 374 samples of RTE cassava chips available in the Australian marketplace. Significant variation in the levels of total hydrocyanic acid were observed in the 317 samples testing positive for cyanogens, with levels ranging from 13 to 165 mg of HCN equivalents per kg (mean value, 64.2 mg of HCN eq/kg for positive samples). The results from this survey serve as a timely warning for manufacturers of RTE cassava chips and other cassava-based snack foods to ensure there is tight control over the levels of cyanogens in the cassava ingredient. Evidence from this survey contributed to an amendment to the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, which now prescribes a maximum level for hydrocyanic acid in RTE cassava chips of 10 mg of HCN eq/kg, which aligns with the Codex Alimentarius Commission international standard for edible cassava flour.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: New South Wales Food Authority, 6 Avenue of the Americas, Newington, New South Wales 2127, Australia. 2: New South Wales Food Authority, 6 Avenue of the Americas, Newington, New South Wales 2127, Australia 3: Division of Analytical Laboratories, Sydney Western Area Health Service, Weeroona Road, Lidcombe, New South Wales, Australia 4: Division of Analytical Laboratories, now retired 5: South Australian Research and Development Institute, GPO Box 397, Adelaide, South Australia 5001, Australia

Publication date: 2011-06-01

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