Bornalee Handique
ICAR-Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Izatnagar, UP-243122


    Biogenic amines are organic bases of low molecular weight that exhibit biological activity and are usually produced by decarboxylation of amino acids or by amination and transamination of aldehydes and ketones. Amines are the organic derivatives of ammonia in which one or more atoms of hydrogen are replaced by alkyl or aryl groups. They are designated ‘biogenic’ when they are originated in a biological process or formed by the action of living organisms. Biogenic amines are the nitrogenous bases with low molecular weight synthesized primarily by decarboxylation of amino acids or by amination and transamination of aldehydes and ketones. They are commonly produced during the normal metabolism of animals, plants and microorganisms. However, their presence in a wide range of food products (fish products, meat products, eggs, cheese, fermented vegetables, beers and wines) is attributed to various factors viz. microbial decarboxylase activity on free amino acids, amino acid composition of food, technical processes (fermentation, packing, cooking), temperature and time of storage etc. The study of biogenic amines in the area of poultry science can be focused on the physiological response; impact on health and production performance, influence on meat and egg and further toxicological implications. The biogenesis of amines in eukaryotes is crucial in the synthesis of hormones, alkaloids, nucleic acids and proteins. Amines like catecholamines, histamine, serotonin are essential neurotransmitters, while putrescine, spermine and spermidine are critical for cell metabolism. In comparison, the major physiological role in bacterial cells is associated with the defence mechanisms to resist acidic conditions. In birds, elevated levels of catecholamines have been implicated in stress and usually known by fall in skin temperature, vasoconstriction and increase in blood pressure, heart rate and blood glucose. There wasrise of adrenaline in yolk without affecting noradrenaline and dopamine levels under stress conditions like handling of birds, increased bird density in cages and social changes, serving as a stress indicator.

 Some important amines and their parent amino acids

Amino acids Amines
Arginine Putrescine
Histidine Histamine
Lysine Cadaverine
Phenylalanine Phenylethylamine
Tyrosine Tyramine
Tryptophan Tryptamine

Effect of biogenic amines on performance and health of poultry

     Reports have shown that high levels of biogenic amines can gain access in poultry feed through bacterial degradation of amino acids in spoiled animal by-products, improper processing and storage leading up to buildup of toxic amines. Histamine toxicity was also later demonstrated showing pathological lesions in GI tract with tissue oedema and spleenic atrophy. Many cases of gizzard erosions, proventricular enlargement, growth depression, poor feed efficiency with increased mortality have also been reported. But some researcher found no deleterious production effects or clinical lesions upon administration of very high concentrations of usual amines like cadaverine, histamine, phenylethylamine, and putrescine, blaming other potentially toxic substances of spoiled products as the cause for pathology. Dietary histamine and cadaverine can cause proventricular lesions, however, only feed ingredients extremely high in these amines are likely to affect growth. The action of histamine and cadaverine seemed synergistic, suggesting the dietary bioamine load to be a better indicator of potential performance problems.

Effect of biogenic amines on quality of poultry meat

      The determination of biogenic amines in meat sector is essential not only for its toxicity but also of its potential role as spoilage indicators. Chicken and poultry products have gained more popularity for its specific sensory attributes, however poultry meat and products are highly perishable and spoilage of meat pose an economic burden and even health hazard, since poultry meat may harbor pathogenic microbes. Biogenic amines are present in all natural products in which protein degradation has taken place and chicken meat like other protein rich food is susceptible to rapid decomposition and formation of amines. Though the kind and quantity of free amino acids in chicken meat does not represent a toxicity risk in humans, consumption of chicken liver have shown hypertensive attacks on patients treated with tranylcypromine, a monoamine oxidase inhibitor.

     Traditionally the shelf-life studies on meat products are done by evaluating the microbiological and sensory quality of the product as a function of the storage time. In addition, chemical metabolites produced in the microbiological deterioration of food products have also been suggested as quality indicators of meat (Rokka et al., 2004). The determination of biogenic amines (tyramine, histamine, tryptamine, phenylethylamine, serotonine, putrescine, cadaverine, spermine and spermidine) might serve as useful quality indicator, as it is only in small concentration in fresh food while microbial spoilage may be accompanied by the increased production of decarboxylases (Lazaro et al., 2013). Bioactive amines are indirect chemical indicators of microbial activity in raw and cooked meat products. The normal trend is that tyramine, putrescine and cadaverine increase while spermidine and spermine decrease or remain constant during the processing and storage of meat and meat products, showing the later amines cannot be used as indicators for fresh meat quality. The small rise in putrescine and cadaverine levels prior to spoilage and positive correlation with the bacterial growth in fresh meat implied their use as bacterial quality indicators. However, the amine production relies on food composition, type of treatment during the production and essentially on the kind of microorganisms present. Many Enterobacteriaceae, Pseudomonas spp. and certain Lactobacilli, Enterococci and Staphylococci are chiefly involved in the formation of biogenic amines. These amine producers may represent a part of the generally associated population of the food product or may have entered by subsequent contamination through or before processing techniques (Balamatsia et al., 2006).

     Vinci and Antonelli (2002) advocated that cadaverine levels could be useful to check spoilage in chicken and beef meat. Lazaro et al. (2014) evaluated the relationship between bacterial (Enterobacteriaceae and aerobic mesophilic bacteria) population and amine production in five different poultry meats (conventional, free-range, and organic chicken, duck and quail). They determined a good correlation between the bacterial growth and all bioamines evaluated in quail meat. However, the other meats tested showed correlations with specific BAs: cadaverine, putrescine, spermidine and spermine in free-range chicken; spermidine, spermine, and tyramine in conventional chicken; and only spemine and tyramine in organic chicken and duck meat. These findings recommend that the usefulness of BAs as quality indicators must be determined for each kind of meat. On the other hand, fermented products pose several variations in amine levels. This fact is implicated to different types and degrees of contamination of raw materials, technological process, certain stages of storage/maturation and the use of starters in fermented products which promoted the structural breakdown of proteins.

 Biogenic amines on eggs

     Eggs are a tremendous source of protein, yet highly perishable and prone to bacterial contamination, especially if temperature chain is broken (Lazaro, 2014). The high nutritious content necessitates the prevention of any toxo-infection from the product. The evaluation of biogenic amines in eggs was investigated for their association with freshness, as these products are used for various applications in food industry, being commercialized, processed and stored without adequate temperature control.  The presence of catecholamines (adrenaline, noradrenaline, dopamine) in egg yolk and that their levels were fairly stable upon incubation, heating or boiling. Absence or inactive form of metabolizing enzymes was presumed to be the cause. When histamine containing diets were administered, the egg yolks were found to contain a higher concentration (778 mg/kg) of this amine, which markedly declined upon storage for 3-5 days at 10-13°C or incubation at 41°C for 30 or 60 min. Further greater decrease was recorded when the yolks were boiled for 5-10 min.

Toxicological implication of biogenic amines on consumers

     Although the bioactive amines are necessary for many critical biological functions, the consumption of foods rich in biogenic amines can have toxicological consequences. A small amount of bioamines are usually metabolised in the gut to physiologically less active forms through the action of amine oxidases (mono and diamine oxidases). Histamine can also be rendered less toxic by methylation (through the action of methyl transferases) or acetylation reactions. However, the intake of foods with high amine loads, or inadequate detoxification, either for genetic reasonsor because of the inhibitory effects of some medicines or alcohol, can lead to harmful effects of biogenic amines by their access into blood stream and causing the release of catecholamines, provoking gastric acid secretion, increased cardiac output, migraine, tachycardia, hyperglycemia and higher blood pressure. Intake of polyamines are of more concern as the activity of ornithine decarboxylase, one of the principle polyamine biosynthetic enzymes declines with increasing age.

    Ascertaining a toxic level of these amines is complex for this varies with the individual sensitivity and detoxifying enzymes. When less is known about the toxic dose of amines, threshold values (mg/kg food) of histamine (100), tyramine (100-800) and phenylethylamine (30) have been reported­. In considering the toxic concentrations, the quantity of food consumed, presence of other amines, amine levels of other dietary components, use of alcohol, medicines are also important. Secondary amines, such as putrescine and cadaverine can also react with nitrite to form carcinogenic nitrosamines and the adherence to intestinal mucosa of some enteropathogens, such as E. coli O157:H7, is increased in the presence of tyramine.

Detection of biogenic amines in poultry products

     Several authors have reported chromatography methodologies to determinate biogenic amines in chicken meat. Lazaro et al. (2013) validated an HPLC-UV methodology to determine cadaverine, putrescine, spermidine, spermine, and tyramine using perchloric acid (5%) and benzoyl chloride in extraction and derivatization steps, respectively, in an isocratic system with a UV detector at 198 nm.


      Biogenic amines constitute a part of normal metabolism however they are rendered toxic upon elevated concentrations. The level of biogenic amines in poultry egg and meat products were found to be non hazardous to consumer health, yet care should be given in case of microbial spoilage, simultaneous consumption of other bioamine rich products and in medications like amine oxidase inhibitors. The concentration of biogenic amines can potentially serve as chemical quality indicator for freshness of poultry meat. The levels of biogenic amines can be controlled under proper hygiene care during processing to check the contamination and microbial activity during storage. Further, appropriate storage of meat and meat products can be determined based on their concentration.


1.C.A. Lazaro, C.A; Conte-Junior, F.L; Cunha, E.T. Marsico, S.B. and Mano, R.M. Franco (2013) .Validation of an HPLC methodology for the identification and quantification of biogenic amines in chicken meat. Food Analytical Methods, 6 (4): 1024-1032.

2. C.A. Lazaro, C.A; Conte-Júnior, M.L.G; Monteiro, A.C.V.S; Canto, B.R.C. Costa-Lima, S.B; Mano, et al.(2014). Effect of ultraviolet light on biogenic amines and other quality indicators of . chicken meat during refrigerated storage. Poultry Science, 93 (9) : 2304-2313.

3. C.C. Balamatsia, E.K; Paleologos, M.G; Kontominas, I.N. and Savvaidis (2006). Correlation between microbial flora, sensory changes and biogenic amines formation in fresh chicken meat stored aerobically or under modified atmosphere packaging at 40 C: possible role of biogenic amines as spoilage indicators. Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek International Journal of General and Molecular Microbiology. 89 (1): 9-17.

4. M. Rokka, S; Eerola, M; Smolander, H; L. Alakomi, R. and Ahvenainen. (2004). Monitoring of the quality of modified atmosphere packaged broiler chicken cuts stored in different temperature conditions: B. Biogenic amines as quality-indicating metabolites. Food Control. 15 (8): 601-607.

5. G. Vinci, M.L. (2002).AntonelliBiogenic amines: quality index of freshness in red and white meat. Food Control. 13 (8): 519-524.


POULTRY PUNCH incorporated in 1984 and we are in poultry media since last 36 years and publish Poultry punch – English Monthly Magazine. Mr Balwant Singh Rana prior to laying the foundation of Poultry Punch magazine was still involved with renowned Indian poultry companies and It was there that he had the vision of doing something exceptional for the Indian poultry industry and then he stepped into the poultry media.

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