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Cancer at Your Cookout: The Five Most Dangerous Foods to Grill

grilled meatChicken grilled for just six minutes can contain dangerous levels of a carcinogenic compound. That puts barbecue chicken at the top of a new list of the five worst foods to grill. Based on analysis by dietitians with the Cancer Project, a PCRM affiliate, the list highlights the risk of cancer-causing chemicals produced by high heat in many commonly barbecued meats.

Cancer Project dietitians found that grilled chicken contains thousands of nanograms of heterocyclic amines, or HCAs. In 2005, the federal government added HCAs to its list of known carcinogens. High HCA levels were also found in grilled steak, pork, salmon, and hamburger. Meat need not be charred or well done to contain these chemicals. Testing has found HCAs in grilled chicken patties cooked for just three minutes on each side.

“This summer, throw cancer-causing grilled meats off the barbie,” said Cancer Project dietitian Joseph Gonzales. “These carcinogenic chemicals can significantly raise cancer risk. Imagine the harm caused by grilled foods like chicken and steak, which can contain hefty doses of these cancer-causing compounds in a single serving.”

The Five Worst Foods to Grill

Food Item

HCAs: nanograms per 100 grams*

Chicken breast, skinless, boneless, grilled, well done

14,000 nanograms/100 grams

Steak, grilled, well done

810 nanograms/100 grams

Pork, barbecued

470 nanograms/100 grams

Salmon, grilled with skin

166 nanograms/100 grams

Hamburger, grilled, well done

130 nanograms/100 grams

*100-gram portion equals about 3.5 ounces grilled

The report offers healthier alternatives that do not produce HCAs when grilled, including vegetable kabobs, vegetarian “chicken” patties, and veggie burgers.

Watch the Cancer Project's Joseph Gonzales, R.D., and Jill Eckart, C.H.H.C., show you how to grill healthy foods:

To read the complete report, visit CancerProject.org.



Joseph Gonzales, R.D.
Joseph Gonzales, R.D.


PCRM Online, July 2010

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