Biogenic amines in cheese and other fermented foods: A review

Jayne E. Stratton, Robert W Hutkins, Stephen L Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

586 Scopus citations


The biogenic amine content of various foods has been widely studied because of their potential toxicity. Biogenic amines, such as tyramine and β-phenylefhylamine, have been proposed as the initiators of hypertensive crisis in certain patients and of dietary-induced migraine. Another amine, histamine, has been implicated as the causative agent in several outbreaks of food poisoning. Histamine poisoning is a foodborne chemical intoxication resulting from the ingestion of foods containing excessive amounts of histamine. Although commonly associated with the consumption of scombroid-type fish, other foods such as cheese have also been associated with outbreaks of histamine poisoning. Fermented foods such as wine, dry sausage, sauerkraut, MISO, and soy sauce can also contain histamine along with other biogenic amines. Microorganisms possessing the enzyme histidine decarboxylase, which converts histidine to histamine, are responsible for the formation of histamine in foods. One organism, Lactobacillus buchneri, may be important to the dairy industry due to its involvement in cheese-related outbreaks of histamine-poisoning. The toxicity of histamine appears to be enhanced by the presence of other biogenic amines found in foods that can inhibit histamine-metabolizing enzymes in the small intestine. Estimating the frequency of histamine poisoning is difficult because most countries do not regulate histamine levels in foods, nor do they require notification when an incident of histamine poisoning occurs. Also, because histamine poisoning closely resembles a food allergy, it may often be misdiagnosed. This review will focus on the importance of histamine and biogenic amines in cheese and other fermented foods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)460-470
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of food protection
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Microbiology


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