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General Food Safety

Do you have any information on Benzo[a]pyrene?

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Yes. There is some evidence that benzo[a]pyrene , a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH), is deposited on meats cooked over a gas or charcoal grill. The source of the PAH's is from the smoke generated when fat drips from the meat and burns in the grill. Meats with the highest fat content acquire the most PAH upon grilling. When meat was kept from exposure to the smoke, PAH's were not present on the cooked meat. PAH's are classified as mutagens in food - meaning they have the potential to alter the genetic material of a cell and thus may be initiators of cancer. A publication of the American Institute for Cancer Research suggests the following when grilling meats: 1) Select low fat meats for grilling. 2) Trim any excess fat from meat before grilling. 3) Cover the grill with foil and punch holes in the foil to allow fat to drip. The foil will prevent some exposure to smoke from burning fat. 4) Cook meat without charring it. 5) Avoid using oil/fat based marinades and sauces to baste meat since these cause fire flare-ups. 6) Remove charred areas from the meat if these do occur. 7) Adjust heat of grilling to prevent flare-ups. 8) If smoke from dripping fat is too heavy, move food to a cooler section of grill. Build a charcoal fire so you will have a cooler section if needed. 9) If possible, use the indirect method of positioning the coals and place a drip pan under the meat. 10) Rotisseries can help cook meat more evenly with less charring. 11) Some foods can be partially cooked in the oven, boiled or micro-waved to reduce the time the meat is cooked on the grill. PREPARED BY: Angela M. Fraser, Ph.D., Associate Professor/Food Safety Specialist, and Carolyn J. Lackey, Ph.D., R.D., L.D.N., Professor/Food and Nutrition Specialist, North Carolina State University (August 2004)

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