Cooking procedures and food mutagens: a literature review

Food Chem Toxicol. 1993 Sep;31(9):655-75. doi: 10.1016/0278-6915(93)90049-5.


Commonly eaten meat products prepared from beef, pork, mutton and chicken show some level of mutagenic activity following normal frying. Food preparation methods have a significant influence on the formation of the mutagenic activity. The main food mutagens found in cooked meat products are heterocyclic amines. Several of them have been tested in long-term animal studies and shown to be carcinogenic in rodents. From a health point of view, it is desirable to reduce or prevent the formation of food mutagens. Therefore, a deeper understanding of the precursors and reaction conditions for mutagen formation during normal domestic cooking is very important. Modelling experiments are useful tools for studying the influence of different physical parameters and various precursors on the mutagenic activity. The identification of several thermic mutagens from the modelling experiments support the theory that creatine or creatinine, amino acids and sugars are precursors in the formation of thermic mutagens. Creatine is generally accepted to be a precursor of the mutagens and, interestingly, the conversion of creatine to creatinine has been shown to be blocked by an excess of sugars, which also caused the mutagenic activity to decrease. The mutagenic activity differed for different amino acids used in the model systems, and various thermic mutagens were produced from the amino acids. The incorporation of carbon atoms originating from glucose into food mutagen molecules has shown glucose to be a precursor. Sugar has also been shown to either enhance or inhibit the yield of mutagenic activity, depending on its molar ratio versus the other reactants, which suggests that the Maillard reaction may be used to control the formation of mutagens.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cooking*
  • Food
  • Hot Temperature
  • Mutagenesis*
  • Mutagens


  • Mutagens