ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: March 19, 2010

Commercial cooking elevates hazardous pollutants

EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE: Tuesday, March 23, 10 p.m., Eastern Time

As you stroll down restaurant row and catch the wonderful aroma of food — steaks, burgers, and grilled veggies — keep this in mind: You may be in an air pollution zone. Scientists in Minnesota are reporting that commercial cooking is a surprisingly large source of a range of air pollutants that could pose risks to human health and the environment. They discussed the topic here today at the 239th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society.

Deborah Gross, Ph.D., pointed out that commercial food cooking is a known source of air pollutants, including gases and tiny solid particles — as is cooking in the home. “While that mouth-watering smell may whet our appetites, it comes from the emission of smoke from the cooking process into the air that we breathe,” Gross said. Gross and Wang set out to get the chemical signature of the mouth-watering aroma from the cooking process. They used a novel combination of chemical and physical measurements of the aerosol particles — solid and liquid droplets — emitted from food being cooked. They did the study with typical commercial cooking appliances in a kitchen laboratory at the University of Minnesota during cooking of pizzas in an oven, steaks in a broiler, and hamburgers on a griddle, clamshell broiler, and charcoal fire.

Which foods create the most emissions in commercial kitchens? Fatty foods cooked with high heat, especially with open flames, such as cooking hamburger patties on a conveyor broiler. Kuehn’s previous research has found that for every 1,000 pounds of hamburger cooked on conveyor broilers, 25 pounds of emissions are created.


Science Inquiries: Michael Woods, Editor, 202-872-6293
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: Michael Bernstein, 202-872-6042

Commercial cooking of burgers and fatty foods
using high heat is a surprisingly large source of
air pollutants that could pose risks to human
health and the environment, scientists report.
Credit: iStock
(High-resolution version)