We describe here the isolation and identification of palmitic acid as being responsible for significant anti-N-methyl-N'-nitro-N-nitroguanidine (MNNG) activity in yogurt. The Ames test (Salmonella typhimurium TA100) was used to direct fractionation of activity. Yogurt was freeze-dried and extracted with acetone to yield a crude extract. The crude extract was purified by normal phase silica gel, Sephadex LH-20, and reversed phase medium pressure liquid chromatographies. The major compound in the active medium pressure liquid chromatographic fractions was determined to be palmitic acid on GC and high pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC) systems, and by nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) analysis. Other saturated straight chain and methyl branched fatty acids were detected by GC/MS and were later shown to possess anti-MNNG activity. Of the straight chain fatty acids, palmitic acid had the highest anti-MNNG activity. All omega - 1 methyl branched fatty acids tested were more active than their straight chain counterparts. A trace amount of isopalmitic acid (14-methyl pentadecanoic acid), a minor milk lipid, was detected in one of the active fractions, and was later shown to be five times more active than palmitic acid. Isopalmitic acid also inhibited mutagenesis induced 4-nitroquinoline-N-oxide (4NQO), and 7, 12-dimethyl benz[a]anthracene (DMBA), and was found to inhibit the metabolic activation of DMBA.