FORT COLLINS, Colo. – For years we've heard the warnings about the possibly carcinogenic effects of grilling meat, but now the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences is out to make it official.
Its new list of nominees, substances suspected of causing cancer, is raking one of America's great pastimes over the coals .
"I don't think it is necessarily a new concern," nutritionist Pat Kendall said.
Kendall is a professor of food safety at Colorado State University and a griller herself.
"It's a concern that has been around for a while, and that is the fat that you find in meats — in particular, when it is grilled over a very hot fire — can splash down into the coals, spit back up and then produce carcinogenic-containing chemicals that would then get into the meat," she said.
It appears there's no happy medium. The government says if you undercook your meat, you run the risk of e-coli. Overcook it, and you risk cancer. So what's a griller to do?
Kendall says that if you are going to grill, you'd be better off choosing meat with a lower fat content, then cooking it over medium heat. She also says it's important to give your grill a good cleaning before each use.
Grilled meat may join 219 other items on the government's official list of cancer-causing substances from alcohol consumption to tobacco use, but slapping a warning on your porterhouse may not change anyone's grilling habits.
Darrell Turman, for one, is an avid griller and a guy who sells a lot of grills.
"Grill sales are excellent. Growing day in and day out," he said. "I don't run out and change overnight based on a report I just read."
Even the institute admits that many things people enjoy have been declared as hazardous to one's health.
And Turman's not wholly convinced of the validity of their latest study.
"Man wouldn't be here if he didn't know how to grill," he said.