Furan in heat-treated foods: formation, exposure, toxicity, and aspects of risk assessment

Sabrina Moro, James Kevin Chipman, Jan-Willem Wegener, Carolin Hamberger, Wolfgang Dekant, Angela Mally

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Citations (Scopus)


Furan is formed in a variety of heat-treated foods through thermal degradation of natural food constituents. Relatively high levels of furan contamination are found in ground roasted coffee, instant coffee, and processed baby foods. European exposure estimates suggest that mean dietary exposure to furan may be as high as 1.23 and 1.01 μg/kg bw/day for adults and 3- to 12-month-old infants, respectively. Furan is a potent hepatotoxin and hepatocarcinogen in rodents, causing hepatocellular adenomas and carcinomas in rats and mice, and high incidences of cholangiocarcinomas in rats at doses ≥ 2 mg/kg bw. There is therefore a relatively low margin of exposure between estimated human exposure and doses that cause a high tumor incidence in rodents. Since a genotoxic mode of action cannot be excluded for furan-induced tumor formation, the present exposures may indicate a risk to human health and need for mitigation. This review summarizes the current knowledge on mechanisms of furan formation in food, human dietary exposure to furan, and furan toxicity, and highlights the need to establish the risk resulting from the genotoxic and carcinogenic properties of furan at doses lower than 2 mg/kg bw.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1197-211
Number of pages15
JournalMolecular Nutrition & Food Research
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2012

Bibliographical note

© 2012 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim.


  • Adenoma, Liver Cell
  • Coffee
  • Animals
  • Hepatocytes
  • Humans
  • Food Handling
  • Mice
  • Carcinogens
  • Furans
  • Risk Assessment
  • Rats
  • Infant
  • Liver Neoplasms
  • Hot Temperature
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Toxicity Tests
  • Food Contamination
  • Infant Food


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