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Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon (PAH)

What is PAH?

PAH is the acronym for Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons. It is a group of chemicals which is formed through cooking processes such as grilling, roasting and frying of high-fat foods at high temperature.

What are the effects of PAH to human health?

PAH is categorized as carcinogens and can cause cancer. Continuous exposure to high levels of PAH may cause health risk to consumers.

What are the factors which influence the level of PAH in foods?

There are many factors which influence the level of PAH in foods such as cooking or grilling methods, grilling temperature, smoking process, the degree of smoking, fat content, environmental contamination etc.

What kind of foods contain PAH?

Foods that are often associated with PAH are high-fat content foods which are roasted, grilled and smoked. Examples of foods that may contain PAH are satay, grilled chicken wings, grilled meat or chicken (BBQ), roasted chicken and grilled fish.

How to reduce PAH in food preparation?

PAH content in foods can be reduced through the following methods:

  • Avoid direct grilling on open fire. Use banana leaf or aluminum foil as base or wrapper during grilling or use a pan.
  • Cook slowly using small flame or ember.
  • Remove / reduce fat in foods which are to be grilled.

Should consumers stop eating grilled foods?

NO. Grilled food can be eaten in moderation. MOH encourages consumers to choose low-fat foods, adopt healthy lifestyle and eat a balanced diet.

Consumers are also recommended to grill or roast foods using small flame or low temperature for a longer time.

Are there toxicological studies conducted on PAH?

At the international level, the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additive (JECFA) has conducted toxicological assessments on PAH content in foods and found out that the level of risk to human health from the exposure to PAH is low.

The Ministry of Health had also conducted monitoring of PAH content in foods in the local market-based on risk assessment principles. The results of the study showed that the level of risk from exposure to PAH is low.

Last reviewed : 3 April 2014
Writer : Pn. Norrani binti Eksan
Reviewer : Pn. Norrani binti Eksan