News for cooks

Frying meat on gas stove frees compounds that damage genes

By Susmita Dey
Published: Thursday 15 April 2010

THE stuff that makes moth balls also turns up as one cooks. In an experiment that modelled the European restaurant kitchen, scientists found that cooking beef steak on a stove releases naphthalene.

That was not the only gas released—from a whiff of butanal used in cigarette lighters to that of paraffin wax which makes candles, cooking meat could not be more unsavoury.

imageEmissions from high-temperature frying have been classified as “probably carcinogenic to humans” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, wrote the scientists from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Polycyclic aromatic compounds (PAH) and higher aldehydes have reportedly endangered the health of chefs.

A kitchen was built with a fume extractor and 400g of beef steak was fried on a pan using margarine or soyabean oil on gas and electric stoves. Detectable levels of naphthalene, a PAH, were measured during each day of cooking with both oils on both stoves. Frying on the gas stove released significantly higher levels of mutagenic aldehydes and ultrafine particles while cooking with either of the oils than on the electric stove.

The results tend to tip in favour of cooking over the electric stove. “Fumes from frying on the gas stove contain more carcinogenic PAHs, mutagenic aldehydes and ultrafine particles than fumes from the electric stove,” said Ann Kristin Sjaastad, a team member. The study was published online in Occupational and Environmental Medicine on February 17.

“Results might be different if an Indian or, say, an American-styled kitchen was used. Previous studies in the same field are Asian. We wanted to see if we could find the same compounds in cooking fumes from a European kitchen,” said Sjaastad. “Also, at this point we cannot say why a gas stove releases more harmful fumes than an electric stove,” she added.

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