Food heating and the formation of heterocyclic aromatic amine and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon mutagens/carcinogens

Adv Exp Med Biol. 1999;459:179-93. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4615-4853-9_12.


Heterocyclic aromatic amines (HAA) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) are mutagens and animal carcinogens sometimes formed when foods are heated or processed. Determining their role in cancer etiology depends on comparing human exposures and determining any significant dose-related effects. Chemical analysis of foods shows that flame-grilling can form both PAH and HAA, and that frying forms predominantly HAA. With detection limits of about 0.1 ng/g, amounts found in commercially processed or restaurant foods range from 0.1 to 14 ng/g for HAA, and levels of PAH up to 1 ng/g in a liquid smoke flavoring. Laboratory fried samples have greater amounts of PAH, up to 38 ng/g in hamburgers, and high levels of HAA, over 300 ng/g, are measured in grilled chicken breast. Understanding the processing conditions that form PAH and HAA can lead to methods to greatly reduce their occurrence in processed foods.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amines / analysis
  • Amines / chemistry*
  • Animals
  • Benz(a)Anthracenes / analysis
  • Benz(a)Anthracenes / chemistry
  • Benzopyrenes / analysis
  • Benzopyrenes / chemistry
  • Cattle
  • Chickens
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Cooking / methods*
  • Hot Temperature
  • Hydrocarbons, Aromatic / analysis
  • Hydrocarbons, Aromatic / chemistry*
  • Meat Products*
  • Microwaves
  • Mutagenicity Tests
  • Mutagens / analysis
  • Mutagens / chemistry*
  • Rats
  • Risk Assessment
  • Swine


  • Amines
  • Benz(a)Anthracenes
  • Benzopyrenes
  • Hydrocarbons, Aromatic
  • Mutagens