Healthy living

Gas fried meat cancer risk

Fumes "probably carcinogenic"

Frying meat on a gas hob may increase your risk of cancer because of the type of fumes produced during cooking, researchers say.

Cooking fumes produced when frying at high temperatures have recently been classified as “probably carcinogenic” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

This is because potentially harmful chemicals such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), heterocyclic amines, and higher aldehydes have all been found in cooking fumes, which can cause changes to DNA.

A team of researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology decided to find out how the type of fat and energy source used when frying at high temperatures affected the levels of these potentially harmful chemicals.

Mirroring the cooking conditions found in a typical western restaurant kitchen, the research team fried 17 pieces of steak for 15 minutes on a gas or electric hob, using either margarine or soya bean oil.

PAHs, aldehydes and fine and ultrafine particles produced in the "breathing zone" of the cook were measured.

Frying on the gas hob resulted in the highest levels of PAH, aldehydes and ultrafine particles, regardless of the type of fat used. Napthalene - a banned chemical - was the only PAH detected in the meat samples.

And the highest levels of ultrafine particles produced during frying meat on the gas hob was found to be considerably higher compared with cooking with electricity.

Ultrafine particles are more easily absorbed into the lung.

Although the levels of PAHs and particulate matter detected were at levels regarded as safe, the researchers pointed out that the cooking fumes contained other harmful components for which there are no clear safety thresholds, and gas cooking seemed to increase exposure to these.

Professional chefs and cooks may be at a higher risk.

In the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the authors concluded: "Cooking fumes consist of toxic and mutagenic compounds including mutagenic aldehydes and heterocyclic amines with no dose-response relationship, so exposure to cooking fumes should be reduced as much as possible."

This article was published on Thu 18 February 2010

Image © Vitaliy Pakhnyushchyy -

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