According to a newly published study by researchers at Oregon State University in the USA, grilling meat over a flame could produce previously unknown compounds that are many times more mutagenic than their carcinogenic parent compounds.
The researchers investigated chemical reactions that occurred under conditions designed to mimic those that could be found in flame grilling of meat and in vehicle exhausts. They identified a number of novel nitrated polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (NPAHs). These compounds are derived from polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).
PAHs, such as benzo[a]pyrene, are known to be produced during the high temperature grilling of meats and are carcinogenic in animals, but some NPAHs are almost 500 times more mutagenic than their parent compounds. It is therefore quite probable that these compounds are also carcinogenic, perhaps at lower concentrations.
As yet there is no information as to whether the new compounds are actually present in flame-grilled meats, or at what levels. The Oregon researchers intend to investigate this further in future studies.
A report of the study has been published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology and can be found in full here.