Potent mutagenic and carcinogenic heterocyclic amines are produced from heated food derived from muscle. These compounds are present at part-per-billion levels and consist primarily of the amino-imidazoazaarene class of chemicals. Additional mutagens present in the meat are not as clearly characterized. Commercial fried-beef patties (hamburgers) have low levels of 2-amino-3,8-dimethylimidazo[4,5-f]quinoxaline (MeIQx) and 2-amino-3,4,8-trimethylimidazo[4,5-f]quinoxaline (4,8-DiMeIQx), 0.1–0.68 ng/g meat for MeIQx and slightly lower for 4,8-DiMeIQx. The formation of these heterocyclic amines can be reduced by microwave pretreatment of meat, with the resulting liquid being poured off before frying. The Ames/Salmonella mutagenic activity was reduced to 5–10% of that of non-microwave-treated samples. MeIQx and Di-MeIQx concentrations were reduced to 12% and 50% of levels in the non-microwave-treated samples, respectively. MeIQx adducts, as measured by accelerator mass spectrometry, were found to be linear with doses from 5 mg/kg to 500 ng/kg. Linear DNA binding at low doses is important for assuming linear risk estimation from the high animalfeeding doses causing cancer to the low human-dietary exposures. Extrapolating from the rodent TD50 dose to humans gives a maximum credible risk from consumption of heterocyclic amines of approximately 1/1000 exposed individuals.


Presented at “Nutrition and Cancer,” the first conference of the International Conference Series on Nutrition and Health Promotion, April 17–19, 1991, Atlanta, GA. This work was supported by United States DOE Contract W-7405-ENG-48, NIEHS Grant IAG-222YO1-ES-70158, National Cancer Institute Grant RO1-40811, and a National Meat and Livestock Board grant.

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