In 2010, the Joint Food and Agriculture Organization / World Health Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) concluded that acrylamide is a human health concern. Certain doses of acrylamide are toxic to animals and humans.
Although acrylamide has known toxic effects on the nervous system and on fertility, the 2002 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO) concluded the intake level required to observe neuropathy (0.5 mg/kg body weight/day) was 500 times higher than the average dietary intake of acrylamide (1 μg/kg body weight/day). For effects on fertility, the level is 2,000 times higher than the average intake.
Acrylamide is a neurotoxin by either oral (in animals) or inhalation exposure (in humans and in animals). Toxic effects are central and peripheral neuropathy causing drowsiness, hallucinations, distal numbness, and ataxia. Recovery is possible after cessation of exposure.
Acrylamide is typically found in plant-based foods cooked with high heat (e.g., frying, roasting, and baking), not raw plant-based foods or foods cooked by steaming or boiling (below 120 degrees Celsius / 248 Fahrenheit). Potato chips and French fries were found to contain higher levels of acrylamide compared with other foods.
The European Chemical Agency added acrylamide to the list of substances of very high concern in March 2010.
Acrylamide is known to cause cancer in animals. It is not clear, as of 2016, whether acrylamide consumption increases people's risk of developing cancer.