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Rosemary Extract Could
Make Cooked Meat Safer


Adding a dash of rosemary extract to ground beef appears to reduce the amount of cancer-causing compounds created during the cooking process, according to new study findings.

The investigators found that when they added antioxidants extracted from rosemary to ground beef, the hamburgers contained smaller amounts of heterocyclic amines, or HCAs, carcinogenic compounds that form when muscle meats like beef, pork and poultry are cooked at high temperatures.

Study author Dr. J. Scott Smith of Kansas State University in Manhattan explained that the antioxidants in rosemary are also found in smaller amounts in other spices such as oregano, sage and basil. The antioxidants likely reduce HCAs by blocking the chemical process that creates the cancer-causing compounds, Smith noted.

He added that people can purchase extracts of rosemary, but they're fairly expensive. To keep meat safe, Smith recommended avoiding cooking meat at extremely high temperatures. Adding spices couldn't hurt, he noted, and may make the meat even safer.

Previous research has also suggested that frequently flipping burgers, trimming off fat and skin before grilling meat, and removing charred portions after grilling may reduce the amount of HCAs in meat.

Microwaving meat does not appear to create HCAs, Smith added, because the temperature in a microwave stays relatively low.

During the study, Smith added rosemary extracts that contain antioxidants to uncooked, ground beef, then fried the meat in a Teflon skillet. He found that meat with rosemary contained smaller amounts of HCAs.

Smith said he did not know how much rosemary people should add to obtain the same effects he saw from rosemary extracts. He plans to investigate whether spices in marinades also protect meat from HCAs.

He added that the study was funded by the Food Safety Consortium, based in Arkansas, Iowa and Kansas, and he has not received any money from companies that sell rosemary products.

Smith presented his findings in March at the Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy in Orlando, Florida.


Reference Source 89
June 15, 2005


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