Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) are naturally occurring compounds found in the environment. They result from natural events such as volcanic activity and bush fires, and are also produced by industrial processes. PAH can also be produced by some cooking processes, such as barbequing, smoking, roasting and frying.
In 2004, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) undertook an analytical survey of PAH in 35 foods available in Australia and consumed in a typical diet. Foods analysed were taken from those collected as part of the 22nd Australian Total Diet Study (ATDS). As such, not all foods known to contain PAH were included in the survey. This is a limitation of the survey in estimating exposure to PAH from Australian foods.
The results of this study have been used in a dietary exposure estimate for a number of age groups in the Australian population.
Dietary exposure of the general population was determined for benzo[a]pyrene, a representative PAH known to be genotoxic and carcinogenic. This is the same approach used by Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives in 2005.
To determine whether the dietary exposure to benzo[a]pyrene is of concern to Australian population groups, the margin of exposure (MOE) based on the Bench Mark Dose Lower Confidence Limit (BMDL) was used.
In this study, the dietary exposure of the general population in the foods analysed is low. The MOEs for all population groups assessed at the mean and 95th percentile were above 10,000 (in general, the higher the MOE, the better).
This study is the most comprehensive study of PAH levels in Australian foods yet undertaken. Based on this data, and taking into account the uncertainties and limitations, this study shows that the health risk to the Australian public from dietary exposure to PAH is unlikely to be of public health and safety concern.
The full report of ‘Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in foods available in Australia’ is available on the FSANZ website HERE