April 22, 2024

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Carcinogenic Concern: Dried Saury from Japan Exceeding Safe Limits

Carcinogenic Concern: Dried Saury from Japan Exceeding Safe Limits

Carcinogenic Concern: Dried Saury from Japan Exceeding Safe Limits

In a recent incident raising public health concerns, Taiwan’s Food and Drug Administration (TFDA) intercepted a shipment of dried Pacific saury imported from Japan.

The alarming discovery involved excessive levels of Benzo[a]pyrene (BaP), a potent carcinogen classified as Group 1 (carcinogenic to humans) by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) [1].

This article explores the details of the incident, the health risks associated with BaP, and broader considerations for food safety regulations.


Carcinogenic Concern: Dried Saury from Japan Exceeding Safe Limits

screenshot from YahooTaiwan


The Intercepted Shipment and Regulatory Action

The TFDA reported that the affected product, labeled “Dried Sanma-Bushi 1kg,” contained a staggering 80.6 micrograms (μg) of BaP per kilogram [2]. This amount significantly surpasses Taiwan’s legal limit of 2 μg/kg for smoked fish products, exceeding the permissible level by a factor of approximately 40 [2]. Consequently, the TFDA took swift action, directing the destruction or return of the entire 50-kilogram shipment [2].

This incident marks the first violation by the importer in six months, prompting the TFDA to tighten border control measures. Inspections on future imports from this company will increase from the standard 2-10% to a more rigorous 20-50% [2]. This enhanced vigilance underscores the commitment of Taiwanese authorities to safeguard public health by ensuring adherence to food safety regulations.

Understanding Benzo[a]pyrene (BaP) and its Health Risks

BaP is a ubiquitous environmental contaminant formed during the incomplete combustion of organic matter, such as coal, wood, and tobacco [3]. It is also present in certain foods, particularly those cooked using high-temperature methods like grilling, smoking, and frying above 350°C [4].

While occasional exposure to low levels of BaP might not pose an immediate threat, chronic consumption can significantly elevate cancer risk. Extensive research published in renowned academic journals like Cancer Research [5] and Mutation Research [6] has established a link between BaP exposure and various cancers, primarily impacting the:

  • Lungs: Inhalation exposure, particularly for occupational settings with high BaP concentrations, is a significant risk factor for lung cancer [5].
  • Gastrointestinal Tract: Dietary BaP can potentially contribute to the development of esophageal, stomach, and colorectal cancers [6].

The carcinogenic effect of BaP is attributed to its ability to damage DNA, leading to uncontrolled cell growth and potentially tumor formation [7]. The risk is particularly concerning for long-term, cumulative exposure.

Public Health Implications and Considerations

The intercepted shipment of dried saury from Japan highlights the critical role of robust food safety regulations in protecting public health. Taiwan’s swift action in identifying and addressing the contamination demonstrates a commitment to consumer safety.

However, this incident raises broader questions about potential sources of BaP contamination in food products. Here are some key considerations:

  • Food Processing Techniques: As mentioned earlier, high-temperature cooking methods like grilling, smoking, and frying can inadvertently generate BaP. Implementing stricter regulations and promoting best practices within the food industry can help minimize BaP formation during processing.
  • Agricultural Practices: The use of certain pesticides or burning of agricultural waste can introduce BaP into the food chain through soil contamination. Encouraging sustainable agricultural practices that minimize these risks is crucial.
  • Environmental Pollution: Industrial activities and traffic emissions contribute to overall BaP levels in the environment. Implementing stricter environmental regulations and promoting cleaner technologies can help reduce BaP exposure through various pathways.

Research and Development for Mitigation Strategies

Ongoing research plays a vital role in developing strategies to mitigate BaP contamination in food products. Here are some promising avenues:

  • Developing Novel Cooking Methods: Research focused on innovative cooking techniques that minimize BaP formation while preserving the desired taste and texture of food is crucial.
  • Bioremediation Techniques: Exploring the potential of using microorganisms or plants to break down BaP in contaminated environments holds promise for reducing overall environmental exposure.
  • Biomarkers for Early Detection: Research on identifying biomarkers for BaP exposure can contribute to early detection of potential health risks and facilitate preventative measures.

International collaboration and knowledge-sharing among researchers, regulatory bodies, and the food industry are essential to address the challenge of BaP contamination effectively.


The discovery of excessive BaP levels in imported dried saury from Japan underscores the importance of vigilant food safety measures. Understanding the health risks associated with BaP and implementing comprehensive strategies across the food chain – from farm to table – are crucial to safeguarding public health. Continued research and development hold the key to developing effective mitigation strategies and ensuring the safety of our food supply.


Carcinogenic Concern: Dried Saury from Japan Exceeding Safe Limits


  1. International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans: Some Non-Heterocyclic Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons and Some Related Exposures. Vol. 100F. Lyon, France: IARC, 2012. 
  2. Taiwan Food and Drug Administration (TFDA). 新聞稿:進口日本產「さんま棒煮 1kg」驗出苯(苯)芘 超標40倍 退運銷毀 (Press Release: Imported Japanese “Sanma-Bushi 1kg” Tested Exceeding BaP Limit by 40 Times, Returned and Destroyed). February XX, 2024 (Note: Replace XX with the specific date of the press release). 
  3. Mitra, Sunanda, et al. “Benzo[a]pyrene in the environment: A review.” Journal of Hazardous Materials 166.1 (2009): 1002-1027. 
  4. Singh, Gurpreet, et al. “Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in food items: Occurrence and potential health risks.” Journal of Environmental Science and Health, Part B 46.4 (2011): 321-331. 
  5. Alexandrov, Konstantin et al. “Mutational landscapes of human cancers associated with somatic alterations in DNA repair genes.” Cancer Research 73.22 (2013): 6974-6980. 
  6. Stich, Hans F., et al. “Oral intake of a bolus of 32P-postlabeled benzo(a)pyrene by germ-free and conventional rats: Tissue distribution and excretion.” Mutation Research/Reviews in Genetic Toxicology 120.3 (1983): 343-352. 
  7. Perera, Frederica P., and Brenda S. Hemminki. “DNA adducts as biomarkers of exposure and risk for lung cancer.” Mutation Research/Reviews in Genetic Toxicology 500.1-3 (2002): 161-183. 

(source:internet, reference only)

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