N-nitroso compounds in two nitrosated food products in southwest Korea

Food Chem Toxicol. 1994 Dec;32(12):1117-23. doi: 10.1016/0278-6915(94)90127-9.


Gastric cancer is the commonest malignant neoplasm in Southwest Korea. The possibility of carcinogenic dietary factors led to the investigation of exposure to N-nitroso compound precursors among residents of the City of Chonju and of two outlying rural townships in North Cholla Province. Two traditional and widely consumed home-prepared food products, salted pickled cabbage (kimchi) and salted seafood sauce (chut-kal) were analysed (a) for nitrite, nitrate, total secondary amines and pH in these food products prior to nitrite incubation and (b) for volatile nitrosamines and total N-nitroso compounds before and after incubation with nitrite in simulated human stomach conditions. Nitrate levels were significantly higher in kimchi (median 1550 mg/kg) than in chut-kal (median 140 mg/kg) (P < 0.001). Secondary amine levels in non-nitrosated samples of kimchi (median 5.5 mg/kg) were significantly lower than secondary amine levels in non-nitrosated chut-kal (median 56 mg/kg) (P = < 0.001). Analyses of nitrite-incubated kimchi revealed high levels of total N-nitroso compounds (median 1173 micrograms/kg); the increase with nitrosation was significant (P = 0.001). The concentration of N-nitroso compounds in nitrite-incubated kimchi was significantly greater than that found in nitrite-incubated chut-kal (P = 0.015). The combination of high levels of nitrate in the kimchi, the demonstration of high levels of total N-nitroso compounds in this food after nitrosation, and the volume of kimchi consumed in the traditional diet suggest that salted pickled cabbage may play a role in gastric carcinogenesis in Southwest Korea.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amines / analysis
  • Ascorbic Acid / analysis
  • Brassica
  • Fermentation
  • Food Analysis*
  • Food Handling*
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Korea
  • Nitrates / analysis
  • Nitrites / analysis
  • Nitrosation
  • Nitroso Compounds / analysis*
  • Seafood
  • Sodium, Dietary / administration & dosage
  • Soil / analysis
  • Water Supply / analysis


  • Amines
  • Nitrates
  • Nitrites
  • Nitroso Compounds
  • Sodium, Dietary
  • Soil
  • Ascorbic Acid