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How to keep grilled meat safe from hazardous substances

Teresa Tanoos's picture
Study finds marinating meat in beer may prevent hazardous substances from forming

With cookout season upon us, a new study has found that marinating meat in beer could reduce potentially harmful substances from forming after the food is grilled.

The study, published in the American Chemical Society's Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, is based on research from the University of Porto, which lead to the discovery that marinades containing certain compounds found in beer, wine and tea can lower the amount of potential carcinogens in cooked meat.

Earlier studies have shown a connection between eating grilled meats and a higher rate of colorectal cancer. When meat is cooked at very high temperatures, like it is on a backyard grill, substances called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are formed. And high levels of PAHs, such as what’s found in cigarette smoke and car exhaust, have been linked to cancers in laboratory animals.

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Although the effect of PAHs on humans remains unclear, safety standards have been established by the European Union Commission Regulation to help protect against possible carcinogenic risks from PAHs in food.

For this latest study, which found that marinades containing beer could also help prevent PAHs from forming, Portuguese researchers used a charcoal grill to cook samples of pork that had been previously marinated for four hours in Pilsner beer, non-alcoholic Pilsner beer, or a black beer ale. After grilling the pork samples until they were well done, the researchers then measured the levels of PAHs in the cooked meat.

As a result, the pork marinated in black beer reduced the levels of PAHs the most, cutting the amount by more than half, compared with the pork samples that were not marinated.

According to the researchers, the consumption of meat marinated in beer can be a “suitable mitigation strategy".

SOURCE: American Chemical Society's Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Effect of Beer Marinades on Formation of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Charcoal-Grilled Pork, published March 8, 2014 (DOI: 10.1021/jf404966w)