Objective: Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are well researched chemicals in
foods that have been found to exhibit mutagenic and carcinogenic potentials. This study examined
available literature on polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in foods, sources, effects and remediation.
Method: Available literature on polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in foods, sources, effects and
remediation was critically reviewed.
Results: The review showed that carcinogenicity of PAHs varies from the potent to moderately
carcinogenic PAHs which include 3-methylcholanthrene, Benzo[a]pyrene, dibenz[a,h]anthracene,
5-methylchrysene, and dibenz[a,j]anthracene, whereas benzo[e]pyrene, dibenz[a,c]anthracene,
chrysene, benzo[c]phenanthrene and fluoranthene are relatively weak or inactive carcinogens. Cooking
processes have been found to be a major source of PAHs in foods. Although, PAHs can also be
formed during curing and processing of raw food prior to cooking, several researchers in recent years
have shown that the major dietary sources of PAHs are fish and meat especially where there is high
consumption of meat cooked over an open flame. Several procedures and methods have been developed
recently to assess and detect PAHs in foods and more recently, bio-monitoring procedures have
also been developed to assess human exposure to PAHs. Numerous organizations such as the United
States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA), the International Agency for Research on
Cancer (IACR), the Scientific Committee on Food (SCF), the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on
Food Additives (JECFA), the International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS), and the
European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have been involved in evaluating the occurrence and
toxicity of PAHs.
Conclusion: Conclusively, taking into consideration the sources of PAHs generation, adequate process
and quality control of the processed foods could be a veritable mean to reduce PAHs ingestion