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Why a fry could be bad for you - even if you don't eat it

Pan-frying meat with gas may be worse than electricity for raising the risk of cancer, research published today claims.

The results of a study of the different fumes created by both methods of cooking has been published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine (OEM).

The research, by a team at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, in Trondheim, also suggests professional chefs and cooks may be particularly at risk.

The team examined fine and ultra-fine particles found in cooking fumes produced during high-temperature frying of beefsteak.

Potentially harmful polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) along with other fine and ultrafine particles have all been found in cooking fumes using vegetable oils, such as soya bean and rapeseed oils as well as lard.

The authors point out that the levels of PAHs and particulate matter found during this study were below accepted occupational safety thresholds.

But they said cooking fumes contain various other harmful components for which there is, as yet, no clear threshold -- and gas cooking seems to increase exposure to these components.

The research team simulated the conditions found in a typical Western European restaurant kitchen, frying 17 pieces of steak, weighing 400g each, for 15 minutes. They used either margarine or two different brands of soya bean oil to cook the steak on gas and electric hobs.

They measured the amount of PAH, aldehydes, and total particulate matter produced in the breathing zone of the cook.

In their conclusions, the team said: "The measured levels of total particles and PAHs for the cooks in our study are far below the occupational exposure limits for nuisance dust.

"However, cooking fumes consist of a mixture of toxic and mutagenic compounds with no known dose-response relationship, so exposure to cooking fumes should be reduced as much as possible."