Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Meat may cause cancer?

On my last night in California, I accompanied a work mate to meet some friends at a California chain called Armadillo Willies and saw this sign at the front of the restaurant. I actually don't know how I feel about this. I assumed this is due to how they cook barbecue in California, but I was still alarmed. So after doing a little on line research I have come to the conclusion that the restaurant was probably warning me about PAH's (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) HCA's (heterocyclic amines); cancer causing compounds that are the result of charring your food. What makes this all the more alarming is that this is probably not limited to California. So I did a little more digging and learned that anytime you charr your food, like burning a piece of toast, you create PAH which is an imperfect combustion of smoke and burning material. Percivall Potts, a 1700's English surgeon, discovered a link in his patients with scrotal cancer and their history as chimney sweeps. PAH's would be the cause in this link and are strong carcinogens. HAC's however are a more recent discovery. This combustion can take place in meat, and it can happen even when not charring. It is actually caused by a chemical reaction in the muscle meat when it is being heated. The cancer causing effects has been very strong in rats, but no humans have shown signs that HAC's cause cancer. After digesting all of this, I have to say that my decision that night to eat my delicious meal at Armadillo Willies would have remained unchanged. California appears to require BBQ restaurants to display this information, but I am probably still at risk here in Alabama. For the lack of having anything better to say about the matter, and a surge of apathy, what doesn't cause cancer? BBQ is a delicious Southern delicacy, and I will continue to take my chances with beef briskets cooked to their smokey goodness.

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