Why You Might Want to Think Twice About Eating Grilled Foods at Your Next Cookout

Sucking pig, or lechon, is the great appetizer in Philippine festivities, celebrations

Sucking pig, or lechon, is the great appetizer in Philippine festivities, celebrations
(Image: meineresterampe/Pixabay/CC0)

Processing of Foods

Grilled foods are common among Filipinos, especially when they have an outing or a backyard party. In summer or at New Year’s, you can see them partying on the beach. They celebrate family reunions, birthday parties, business meetings and new acquaintances. They bring along with them ready-to-eat foods and both hard and soft drinks. Aside from those foods, they also buy fresh fishes from roadside vendors to add to their viands for lunch. They just put them direct on the grill over hot coals, until those fishes are cooked.

A group of friends, business associates or visiting relatives occasionally hold an impromptu party in the host’s backyard. They enjoy a bit of a drinking spree. Their gathering is full of fun and enjoyment, with all the foods to satisfy their tummy. Everyone gives his share to the party – like a case of beer, a salad, two or three long-necked bottles of wine or brandy. The host has also something to offer to his invited guests. It’s common for the host to marinate a whole dressed chicken, ready to roast on the fire. It seems that a party is not complete without grilled chicken.

Every year where I live in the Philippines, we celebrate the Patron Saint Vicente Ferrer’s day. Our close friends and relatives visit us and join us in this festivity of Saint Ferrer. Our fiesta celebration is not complete with a léchon, a suckling pig roasted over an open fire, or a barbecue of chopped pork meat. Lechon is identified as the essence of every celebration or festival in the Philippines. Without it, the merry-making seems insufficient.

Cancer-Producing Food Process

The parties are great, but foods which are cooked over the glowing charcoal or open fire are the possible sources of cancer-causing compounds. Fish, for example, is placed on top of the grill and left to cook for several minutes. When it is unattended, the scales of the fish are burnt. People never mind the burnt scales; they just eat them. Dressed chicken is also cooked over glowing charcoals for several minutes and the dark grill marks on its body, wings, or drumsticks pose a health hazard to the human body.

Pork meat or the whole suckling pig can be roasted for several minutes or hours at high temperatures before it is ready to be served. During the roasting process, fat drips onto the live charcoals and causes flames to flare up, touching the meat directly. The fire, smoke and high temperatures can all create dangerous chemicals which are linked to cancer in humans. These carcinogenic compounds, like heterocyclic amines (HCA) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), are generated from the burnt part of the foods grilled and the smoke that it emits from a drip meat juice. Dr Joel Fuhrman has more to say on these effects of cancer-causing compounds in his article, “How to Reduce the Health Hazards of Grilling Your Food.”

Many people grill chicken, pork, or other meats on a skewer (Image: PublicDomainPictures/Pixabay/CC0)

Many people grill chicken, pork, or other meats on a skewer
(Image: PublicDomainPictures/Pixabay/CC0)

No Excuses

Grilled meat is associated with celebrations and a vigorous, vibrant life here in the Philippines. But it is time that we recognize the risks associated with our preferred manner of cooking the foods we love, Grilling is associated with cancer-causing compounds, so maybe we need to rethink the way we cook our meat. If we want a life free of sickness like cancer, it is better to eat what is safe for our body than to risk acquiring a deadly disease because of our ignorance and complacency. I will look for healthier ways to cook foods for my family. Will you?
© 12 August 2016 – Gil Camporazo, Philippines.

Image by vudoan20170/Pixabay/CC0


  1. Kyla Matton Osborne

    Grilling meats and other foods is also common in North America, especially during the summer months. I suspect that most of us aren’t aware of the hazards, and it will likely take a while before people begin to change their habits.

    1. Gil Camporazo Post author

      I would surmise to say that the effect of eating burnt part of the grilled foods is slow. In the Philippines, festivities are common. When you go anywhere in our place, you could witness merrymaking, street dancing and any form of gaiety And what you can see there are foods, roasted on fire and they love eating them without noticing the dark spot of the cooked foods. Whatever it is, it is safer to reduce or refrain eating grilled foods now we know the danger. Isn’t it?

    2. Kyla Matton Osborne

      I was thinking pretty much the same as you: that the impact probably adds up slowly over time as we eat grilled foods. We are exposed to so many other sources of carcinogens and other hazardous chemicals in ways that are not nearly so pleasant. I think perhaps it would be better to try to eliminate those types of exposure first! We have to be able to enjoy life too…

    3. Gil Camporazo Post author

      That’s right. I remember one saying states that there is no harm in trying. That is good suggestion you have. Why not give a chance to relive one’s body and be healthy by reducing if not stopping of eating delicious foods cooked by a live charcoal on a grill.

    1. Gil Camporazo Post author

      I do like it too and my wife loves preparing it for me. But you know most of the Filipino won’t apply this serious information on the health hazards of eating grilled foods.

    1. Gil Camporazo Post author

      That is good. Nevertheless, there are some people who grilled their bread to harden it. It can’t be avoided that the hot grill will leave its dark mark on the bread. That would be another source of carcinogens.

  2. Rex Trulove

    I do a lot of barbecuing when I can. However, when I cook that way, I also make sure the meat is cooked all the way through, so it is more than a few minutes. I also grill a number of vegetables. For that matter, we eat a LOT of vegetables that high in anti oxidants and other cancer fighting substances. I’ve mentioned it before, but I love tomatoes, for instance. Tomatoes are very high in beta carotene. 🙂

    1. Gil Camporazo Post author

      I have learned lately that tomatoes is not advisable to eat raw. Beta carotene in tomato won’t fully do its work. I don’t know if you have heard that?

    2. Rex Trulove

      I’ve heard exactly the opposite. According to the American Medical Association, as well as the the Cancer Foundation, raw tomatoes are extremely good for people and most people should eat more of them than they do. However, they should be thoroughly cleaned before eating if they come from the store, because some of the pesticides used on tomatoes linger. The pesticides are extremely harmful. That might be what the medical researchers you heard saying that they were harmful could have meant.

      That said, one thing that is extremely common is for someone to be ready to tell you that virtually anything you eat is harmful in one way or another. For instance, for a long time, researchers said that coffee was bad for people. Then new studies came out that showed that it is good for you in many ways. They said that real butter was really bad and that people should eat margarine, and it turns out that butter is far, far better for people than margarine (which is only one atom different than a kind of plastic.) Because of all of that, I take a slightly different approach. As my grandmother used to say, “Everything in moderation”. My belief is that too much of anything is bad for you.

      So I don’t believe that eating a raw tomato a day would hurt a person (unless they were allergic), but I sure wouldn’t recommend eating five pounds of tomatoes a day. 😀

    1. Rex Trulove

      I don’t see anything here that says that raw tomatoes are bad for you. Raw or cooked, tomatoes are healthy and people should eat more of them. They should also eat more of the cole crops; cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi and kale. I read a rather interesting study done by a major university in California who’d concluded that a person eating one small helping of broccoli or cauliflower per day was 43% less likely to develop cancer of any sort than someone who didn’t. That is huge!

    2. Gil Camporazo Post author

      What the nutrtionist is trying to relay is that tomatoes, cauliflowers, and carrots would enhance or increase its nutritional value when they are cooked.

    1. Gil Camporazo Post author

      Have you found anything in your body such way of preparing your meals by grilling? I am just curious to know.

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