Biogenic amines: Precursors of carcinogens in traditional Chinese fermented food

Long Yan Fiona FONG, Hani EL-NEZAMI, Eric Tung Po SZE

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Fermented food products, particularly traditional Chinese fermented food, such as douchi (fermented black bean), doujiang (soybean paste), Jinhua ham (dried-cured ham) and yulu (fermented fish sauce), have been reported to have high levels of biogenic amines. Biogenic amines are precursors of carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds. These molecules can be formed by the microbiological degradation of high-protein food during the fermentation process. Because of the adverse health impact of these substances, such as derivation into carcinogens, there is a growing interest among researchers to determine the content of biogenic amines in foods. This article aims to review the health impact of biogenic amines, the mechanisms of the formation of biogenic amines, the biogenic amine levels in certain traditional Chinese fermented food and the analytical methods used to determine the contents of biogenic amines in food. Given the harmful effects of fermented food and the capacity of analytical methods, further research is warranted for the development of novel food technology for producing traditional Chinese fermented food with reduced levels of biogenic amines. Copyright © 2021 The Authors. Published by Elsevier GmbH on behalf of Society of Nutrition and Food Science e.V.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-57
JournalNFS Journal
Early online date29 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


Fong, F. L. Y., El-Nezami, H., & Sze, E. T. P. (2021). Biogenic amines: Precursors of carcinogens in traditional Chinese fermented food. NFS Journal, 23, 52-57. doi: 10.1016/j.nfs.2021.04.002


  • Biogenic amines
  • Chromatography
  • Probiotic bacteria
  • Traditional Chinese fermented food


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