Deakin Communicating Science 2016

EES 200/101

Eating burnt toast! That’s it your toasted!

What is the issue?

Toaster technology is similar to Geelong’s weather – not quite as good as we’d like it to be. Unless you have got the state of the art appliance you are likely to end up with blackened slices.

They maybe edible ladies and gentlemen but is it harmful to our wellbeing? A vital question which will change our eating habits, the way we cook and even our food preferences.

The answer is simply YES IT IS POSSIBLY HARMFUL!

So much for enjoying Barbeques, when meat – whether it is beef, pork, fish, or poultry – or even starchy foods such as potato chips and bread, are cooked at high temperatures and at a long periods of time they can possibly trigger cancer in our bodies.


The Theory

A group of “carcinogenic (cancerous) substances called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) [and heterocyclic amines (HCAs)] can be produced if foods are overheated or burnt” (Better Health Channel, March 2014).

“According to the National Cancer Institute [NCA], HCAs and PCAs cause cancer in animal models (lab rats). So far it’s unclear if humans sprout cancer growths after exposure to HCAs and PHAs, but we aren’t volunteering for any trials to find out for sure” (FOX news, July 2013).

Hence experts advise against eating crispy burnt meats, since there’s a high chance of developing prostate, pancreatic and colorectal cancer according to Natalie E Azar, M.D., clinical assistant professor of medicine and rheumatology at NYU Medical Centre.

Despite the fact that experts agree that the amount in a typical “Australian diet is too low to be considered a significant cancer risk” (Better Health Channel, March 2014). However the state government webpage has informed us that when cooking its best to use relatively low temperatures and prevent or limit the consumption of char-grilled meats and foods.

Low temperature cooking methods, include;

  • Steaming
  • Roasting
  • Microwaving
  • Boiling
  • Stewing
  • Casseroling
  • Braising
  • Poaching
  • Baking

What happens when you burn food?

Well not only does the food colour change obviously! But amino acids (protein building blocks) and sugars are heated together during the cooking process. These compounds then react with one another (only at a high temperatures) creating Acrylamide (Brent, 2011).


Other ways to prevent this:

Marinate your meat

Cooking meats with garlic, rosemary, fruit pulp and vitamin E-rich spice rubs like chili powder and paprika may lower HCA production up to 70%. Even beer can decrease HCAs’ mutagenic powers.

Cut the time and temperature

Direct exposure to high temperatures (300 degrees) are a main contributor to HCA and PAH production according to the NCA. Reduce exposure time can also ensure that the food will not produce HCAs/PAHs.

Be a picky eater

When cooking meat constant flipping of meats to limit surface exposure. If the meat manages to get burnt a little bit, then those parts are cut of before serving or eating.

Use the right oil

Dr. Sue Decotiis suggests that peanut oil is best used as it can cope with high temperatures without mutating. However oils such as grapefruit-seed oil and soybean oil are examples that can mutate at high temperatures and are then considered carcinogenic problems.

EES101 altered pic


Better Health Channel, March 2014, ‘Cancer and food’, Victoria State Government, Available at: (Accessed: 13 April 2016).

Brent, Dr. Paul, January 2011, ‘Can eating burnt toast give you cancer?’, ABC health & wellbeing., Available at: (Accessed: 13 April 2016).

FOX news, July 2013, ‘Health myth: Does burnt meat cause cancer?’, Available at: (Accessed: 13 April 2016).


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This entry was posted on April 13, 2016 by in Uncategorized.

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