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Want fries with that? New EU rules mean paler chips for diners in Finnish restaurants

Consumers will soon notice that their chips will have a lighter hue due to a new EU regulation that takes effect from 11 December.

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Image: AOP

The EU has introduced a new regulation requiring food business operators to only serve customers chips – often known as French fries – that are a golden yellow colour.

Fries aren’t the only food item coming under closer scrutiny in Brussels. Officials will also be looking at other foodstuffs such as crisps, crackers, pastries, breakfast cereals, baby biscuits, cereals and jar food and bread in an effort to ensure that they do not contain acrylamide, a food contaminant that is considered a chemical hazard in the food chain.

Acrylamides typically form when starchy foods are subjected to high temperatures during cooking, such as baking, deep-frying and roasting. The substance is believed to be linked to the risk of cancer in humans.

Consumers in Finland are most likely to encounter the effects of the new regulation from 11 December, when chips served at kiosks, restaurants and fast food outlets will have to meet the stricter preparation cooking criteria outlined to ensure that they meet the new health standards.

The regulation itself lays out very strict guidelines for selection of the potatoes to be used for fries, their storage, preparation and cooking time to ensure the desired result. "Cook potatoes until a golden yellow colour; do not overcook," the regulation advises.

No dark fries after April

Restaurants will have until April 11 to wean their customers off of darker fries and restaurateurs will be able to refer to a colour chart to determine if their chips are fit to be served to customers.

The regulation will also require food industry operators that prepare and sell fries to test potatoes before they are used in the manufacturing process.

Potatoes to be used for cooking, baking or deep-frying must have low levels of acrylamides in the preparatory stage.

Manufacturers of French fries will have to perform colour tests on cooked foods, probably using a Munsell food colour chart for comparison.

Suppliers of raw materials for the restaurant industry will also have to blanch potato slivers to minimise the presence of reducing sugars on the outside of the strips.

Meanwhile, cooks in restaurant kitchens will have to record the duration and temperature used for preparing chips.

Sorry waiter, my fries aren't the right colour

The Finnish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry said that it is currently preparing a wide-scale awareness campaign to get restaurants up to speed on the new regulation and its requirements. Food safety watchdogs will also be on hand to provide advice and to ensure that the industry keeps up with the new rules after April.

Restaurants will receive guidelines and will also be able to acquire food colour guides to make it easier to meet the new requirements. For example, the fast food chain McDonald’s has already indicated that it will begin using the colour chart in Finnish outlets even before the regulation takes effect.

In the future, restaurant workers and customers may be able to compare the colour of the starches on their plates or in a photo with a chart to determine if a dish meets the EU’s exacting criteria. In theory, if the colours don’t match up, customers will be able to ask for a new plate.

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