The aim of this study was to investigate the potential antioxidative and antimutagenic effects of Maillard reaction products (MRPs) formed from glucose or fructose and cysteine or glutathione in the Ames Salmonella test and the 2,2'-azobis-(3-ethylbenzothiazoline-6-sulfonic acid) (ABTS) assay. The mixtures were heated for 4 h 20 min or 14 h at 103 or 110 degrees C and tested in five concentrations from 0.05 to 11 mg/plate in strains TA 98 and TA 102 in the plate incorporation assays. In order to promote the formation of mutant revertants the prooxidants hydrogenperoxide (H(2)O(2)) and tertiary-butyl hydroperoxide (tBOOH) were used in the TA 102. Tests were conducted with preincubation with (+S9) and without (-S9) metabolic activation. 5-Hydroxymethylfurfural (5-HMF) was investigated as carbonyl compound. In TA 98, no effect of the MRPs was shown. The shorter heated samples (4 h 20 min) were in general more active than the longer heated ones (14 h). Up to 1 mg/plate (1%) all the reaction mixtures remained safe, but the 5% and in particular the 11% fractions increased the number of revertants significantly for the shorter heated mixtures. The 14 h mixtures did not show any response for almost all concentrations. No significant difference in the number of revertants could be observed between the cysteine and glutathione mixtures, the fructose mixtures increased revertants number to a higher extent than the glucose mixtures only in the 4 h 20 min heated mixtures for the highest concentration (11%). The highest activity was always observed in the +S9 tests. Antioxidative effects expressed as Trolox equivalents were higher in the 4 h 20 min heated samples. When detectable, HMF concentration was found to be higher in the 14 h MRP samples. In order to use the tested mixtures as antibrowning agents for technological purpose, the concentration should not be higher than 1% and the longer heated reaction mixtures were preferred since the brown pigments seemed to be less reactive than the intermediate products.