Occurrence of nitroso compounds in fungi-contaminated foods: a review

Nutr Cancer. 1986;8(1):63-9. doi: 10.1080/01635588609513877.


Dimethylnitrosamine (NDMA), diethylnitrosamine (NDEA), methylbenzylnitrosamine, and a new N-nitroso compound, N-3-methylbutyl-N-1-methylacetonylnitrosamine (NMAMBA), were found in cornbread that was inoculated with Fusarium moniliforme and underwent an incubation and the addition of a small amount of NaNO2. The carcinogenicity of NMAMBA was shown by the induction of forestomach carcinomas and liver tumors in mice and rats. Another new nitrosamine, N-2-methylpropyl-N-methylacetonyl nitrosamine, was isolated in millet and wheat flour after similar treatment. Some species of fungi not only can reduce nitrates to nitrites but also can increase the amount of secondary amines in the moldy foods and provide favorable conditions for the synthesis of nitrosamines. Some fungi may utilize primary amines to synthesize nitrosamines in appropriate culture mediums. Furthermore, the cornmeal may naturally contain trace amounts of nitrosamines, as detected by a gas chromatography/thermoenergy analyzer. Prolonged feeding of F. moniliforme-inoculated cornbread alone also induced the development of forestomach carcinoma in rats. This indicates the occurrence of potential carcinogens, perhaps certain Fusarium mycotoxins, in the moldy cornbread in addition to the carcinogenic nitrosamines. Another nitroso compound, Roussin red methylester (di-mu-methanethiolatotetranitrosodiiron) was found in pickled vegetables that are eaten daily in the Linxian (China) area. Roussin Red may provide NO-2 ions, which would react readily with secondary amines to form nitrosamines. Possibly this compound is a natural tumor promoter and is able to induce epithelial hyperplasia of the upper digestive tract and forestomach papilloma in treated mice. Also, trace amounts of NDMA, NDEA, and some other nitrosamines were found in the extract of pickled vegetables.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bread / analysis
  • Carcinogens / analysis*
  • Food Contamination / analysis*
  • Food Microbiology*
  • Fungi / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms, Experimental / chemically induced
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / chemically induced
  • Nitrates / analysis
  • Nitrites / analysis
  • Nitroso Compounds / analysis*
  • Zea mays / analysis


  • Carcinogens
  • Nitrates
  • Nitrites
  • Nitroso Compounds