Dietary exposure assessment of putrescine and cadaverine and derivation of tolerable levels in selected foods consumed in Austria


Biogenic amines (histamine, tyramine, putrescine, cadaverine, agmatine, spermidine and spermine) are nitrogenous compounds. They occur naturally in living organisms and are involved in many biological processes. Nonetheless, high amounts in food may be hazardous to human health. The diamines putrescine and cadaverine in food can potentiate the effects of simultaneously ingested histamine. In protein-rich foods, high concentrations of these diamines are indicative for hygienic deficiencies in the food chain. Even though being formed endogenously and being essential for some physiological metabolic pathways, both diamines are known as precursors for carcinogenic nitrosamines. Putrescine also plays a certain role in tumour growth. Nevertheless, no tolerable levels in foods have been established so far. The present study suggests tolerable levels in cheese, fermented sausages, fish, sauerkraut and seasonings that are based on toxicological threshold levels, occurrence of diamines in foods and food consumption in Austria. Average daily intake of putrescine via fermented food was calculated to be 6.8 (female adults) and 8.8 (male adults) mg per person. Respective numbers for cadaverine were 9.8 and 11.6 mg per person and day. For putrescine, proposed maximum tolerable levels for sauerkraut, fish, cheese, fermented sausages and seasonings are 140, 170, 180, 360 and 510 mg/kg, respectively. Likewise, for cadaverine, in sauerkraut, fish, cheese, fermented sausages and seasonings, maximum tolerable levels are 430, 510, 540, 1,080 and 1,540 mg/kg, respectively. These limits can be met by current manufacturing practices, as ascertained from the results of our own studies and from literature. Admittedly, only few data are published on toxicological threshold levels of these diamines, which mean that these tolerable levels are associated with some uncertainty.

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The authors thank Frans J. M. Smulders for comment on the manuscript and language revision.

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Correspondence to Elke Rauscher-Gabernig.

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Rauscher-Gabernig, E., Gabernig, R., Brueller, W. et al. Dietary exposure assessment of putrescine and cadaverine and derivation of tolerable levels in selected foods consumed in Austria. Eur Food Res Technol 235, 209–220 (2012).

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  • Putrescine
  • Cadaverine
  • Exposure assessment
  • Tolerance levels
  • Fermented food