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Mutat Res. 1991 Aug;260(4):321-9.

Bacterial mutagenicity testing of 49 food ingredients gives very few positive results.

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Toxicology Branch, Food and Drug Administration, Washington, DC 20204.


49 substances permitted for use in food in the United States was tested for mutagenicity in the Ames Salmonella typhimurium assay and in Escherichia coli strain WP2. Four of these substances caused increases in revertant counts in S. typhimurium. Two of these four (papain and pepsin) were found to contain histidine, and therefore the results of the tests on these two substances could not be taken as demonstrating mutagenicity. The other two substances causing increases in revertant counts (hydrogen peroxide and potassium nitrite) were mutagenic. The results on one chemical, beta-carotene, were evaluated as inconclusive or questionable. The remaining 44 substances were nonmutagenic in the test systems used. It is concluded that, for those generally physiologically innocuous chemicals tested, there are very few 'false positives' in the bacterial test systems used.

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