Nothing new under the sun

For those who think the revelation that carcinogens are formed in the nonenzymic browning reaction known as the Maillard reaction is something new, take a look at the following item by David Bradley from a 1990 issue of New Scientist. Science: Cooking up carcinogens – The chemicals generated in our food, New Scientist vol 127 issue 1729 – 11 August 1990).

Chemical reactions that take place during cooking, baking and preserving generate products that are very important in giving different foods their distinctive aromas and colour. Recently, researchers have discovered that many of these products can reduce the food’s nutritional value, and some can actually be poisonous.

Franze Ledl of Stuttgart University and Erwin Schleicher of the academic hospital Munich-Schwabing in West Germany have studied many of the reactions involved, which are known collectively as the Maillard reaction. They believe that the reaction products could cause some diseases, including certain forms of cancer (Angewandte Chemie, International Edition in English, 1990, vol 29, p 565). If you are an NS subscriber you can read David Bradley’s article in the archive. It seems that the potential for carcinogens, such as acrylamide.