Grilling sausages outdoors in the forest could be the most carcinogenic form of barbecued food.

New report: Grilled food is safe – as long as you don't burn the sausages

Grilling is not dangerous in itself – but pay attention to how well the meat is cooked and what kind of meat you are grilling. That is the conclusion of a new report from the Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food and Environment.

This is the first time since 2007 that the Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food and Environment (VKM) has issued an assessment of the health risks associated with eating barbecued food.

“For most people, there will be a low health risk associated with barbecuing, but there may be some who barbecue often and mainly grill fatty meat products. What and how you grill it affects the formation of harmful substances,” Espen Mariussen says.

He is the academic leader of the investigation, and is part of VKM's expert group for pollutants, natural toxins, and drug residues.

Worse for health than fried food

More harmful substances can be formed by grilling food than frying it in a pan, according to VKM. This is because the cooking temperature is higher and less controllable.

“Grilling food at a high temperature and/or on a campfire, often, and eating a lot of it may damage one's health. Distance to the heat source, how early food is placed onto the grill, and the type of fuel used can affect the formation of harmful substances,” they write in the report.

“There is good evidence that two groups of genotoxic and carcinogenic substances, heterocyclic amines (HAA) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), are formed in higher concentrations in grilled food than in fried food,” VKM writes.

Sausages on an open fire are the worst

The committee further writes that the concentration of PAH is highest in ‘very well-done meat with a high fat content, such as pork ribs and hamburgers’.

The worst is sausage grilled on an open fire, because unburnt fat and soot can stick to the sausage. Stick bread can also have a high content of PAH.

At the same time, VKM emphasises that children can still eat barbecued food, but adults should be careful not to cook the food too much.

Same conclusion as before

In addition to it being 17 years since the last report, this report is based on better data than the previous one. However, VKM has not obtained better figures on the actual consumption of barbecued food.

The report highlights a lack of studies directly investigating the health impacts of consuming barbecued foods. Therefore, the findings of the 2007 report remain relevant, indicating a possible link between the consumption of fried and grilled foods and an increased risk of certain cancers, including colorectal cancer.

Gas grilling may be somewhat healthier, although no thorough studies have been conducted on this.


Translated by Alette Bjordal Gjellesvik

Read the Norwegian version of this article on

Powered by Labrador CMS