Is there any connection between liquid smoke flavoring and cancer?
A.S.P., Chicago ANSWER: Liquid smoke-type products are made from the condensed smoke of burning hardwood chips or sawdust. This type of flavoring is a convenient way to lend a grilled flavor without the grill. The flavor components from the burning wood are captured in water, concentrated to a desired consistency and then aged. To understand any cancer implications of these products, it is important to know the difference between a mutagen and a carcinogen. A mutagenic substance is one that has an ability to cause mutations, or changes, in a cell’s genetic material. Our bodies have to deal with mutagens and mutations all the time; every time we cook food, every time we step out into the sun, and every time we take a breath. Most mutagens don’t amount to much because our immune systems are trained to spot them and hustle them away before they have a chance to cause problems. If there is a danger, it’s that a minute percentage of mutations in the wrong place at the wrong time can theoret