Limited health risk from carcinogenic PAHs in bakery supply chain, say researchers

By Oliver Nieburg

- Last updated on GMT

Consumer exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons from bread too low to warrant health risk, says study
Consumer exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons from bread too low to warrant health risk, says study
Dietary exposure to cancer-causing compounds polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in bread and cereal products are of little concern to consumer health, according to researchers.

Writing in the journal Food Chemistry​, Polish scientist Marta Ciecierska et al. ​said that the level of PAHs in bakery products were too low to be considered a health risk.

“Taking into consideration the obtained values of the average dietary exposure to PAHs and Margin of Exposure analysis, it could be concluded that bread and cereal products under investigation constitute a low concern for consumer’s health,”​ said the study.

Cereals have previously been identified as one of the major contributing sources of human exposure to PAHs.

Bread can be contaminated with PAHs through the raw ingredients, particularly flour, and through the baking process.

Study Authors: Low exposure

The researchers analyzed PAH levels in grains and in wheat and rye breads baked at different temperatures (230°C, 235°C and 240°C).

They found that the total content of 19 PAHs varied from 1.07 to 3.65 micrograms (μg) per kg in grain, flour and bran and between 1.59 and 13.6 μg per kg in bread.

The European Commission set maximum levels for PAHs in certain foods in 2006, and regulations were amended in 2011.

PAH occurrence in cereal products was thought to be too low to justify a maximum level – however processed cereal-based foods for infants and young children have a max limit of 1.0 microgram (μg) per kg.

Other foods with maximum PAH levels include products using cocoa beans, coconut oil as well as smoked meat and fish.

How do PAHs get into food?

PAHs occur naturally in the environment and also through thermal treatment processes in food manufacture. A 2002 EU scientific committee concluded that 15 heavy PAHs were genotoxic carcinogens.

The researchers in this study tested for these 15 PAHs as well as 4 light PAHs listed by the US Environmental Protection Agency – taking the number of PAHs analyzed to 19.

The majority of PAHs found in the study were lower risk light compounds.

Source: Food Chemistry

Vol. 141 (2013), pp. 1–9

"Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the bakery chain" 
Authors: M. Ciecierska , M.W. Obiedzinski

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