This common food chemicals may cause cancer, study finds

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Nitrosamines are a group of chemical compounds found in some foods, tobacco smoke, cosmetics, and other consumer products.

These are not intentionally added to food but can form during the preparation and processing of certain foods, particularly those that are cured, smoked, grilled, or contain nitrate or nitrite preservatives.

They are known to be carcinogenic and genotoxic, meaning they have the potential to cause cancer and damage DNA.

A study by the EFSA discovered 10 nitrosamines in foods like cured meat, processed fish, cocoa, beer, and other alcoholic drinks.

Among these, meat was identified as the “most important food group” contributing to nitrosamine exposure.

The exposure level to nitrosamines in food was considered to raise health concerns for all age groups across the EU population.

The incidence of liver tumors in rodents was highlighted as a critical health effect, based on animal studies.

The presence of nitrosamines in everyday foods, while not intentionally added, can pose serious threats to public health, leading to potential cancer risks and DNA damage.

It underscores the importance of thorough understanding and awareness of the food consumed.

Need for Balanced Diet

The EFSA recommended a balanced diet with a wide variety of foods to reduce the consumption of nitrosamines, which implies a critical need for consumers to adopt mindful and diversified dietary practices to mitigate exposure to such harmful compounds.

Food Safety and Regulation

The findings stress the necessity of strict food safety and regulatory measures to monitor and control the presence of harmful compounds in food items.

Knowledge gaps about the presence of nitrosamines in some food groups necessitate extensive research to assess the extent of risks fully and develop effective risk management measures.

Industry Responsibility

Food manufacturers should also be responsible for adopting measures to minimize the formation of nitrosamines during food processing and preparation, emphasizing the collaborative effort required to maintain food safety.


The warning from the EFSA about nitrosamines in everyday foods brings to light the substantial health risks associated with the consumption of such foods.

The findings call for enhanced consumer awareness, balanced dietary choices, strengthened food safety measures, and responsible food manufacturing practices to counteract the presence and formation of these harmful compounds in foods, ultimately safeguarding public health.

Further Steps

Consumers should remain informed about the potential risks related to certain foods and should strive to minimize exposure to harmful chemicals by adopting a balanced and varied diet.

Concurrently, it is imperative for food manufacturers, regulatory bodies, and the scientific community to collaborate in addressing the knowledge gaps and formulating comprehensive strategies to ensure food safety and public health.

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