GAZTAMINA project: Cheese contribution to biogenic amines intake evaluation

The best-known biogenic amines, from food origin are histamine and tyramine.  The principal foods related to these compounds are fish, shellfish and derivatives, been the fermented products like the cheese less involved. However, it is the daily total intake amount, which can produce adverse effects in human health, so it is important to get a total absence of histamine and tyramine in every food.

According to European Food Safety Authorities (EFSA), the intake of any number of histamines can produce intolerance symptomatology in histamine sensitive people, while in healthy people the amount of intake increases to 25 – 50 mg. The amount of tyramine that can produce effect in healthy people is 600 mg. But pharmacologically treated patients with a classic monoamine oxidase inhibitor or a third-generation drugs, can afford only 6 mg and 50 mg respectably.

In this regard, in 2022 the Dairy Centre Leartiker had carried out the project GAZTAMINA, supported by ELIKA the Basque Agro-food Safety Foundation, from the Food Safety Table from the Basque Country and funded for the Basque Government. The aim of the project was to evaluate the public health risk to intake those biogenic amines from cheeses and wine, which results are being evaluated by the Basque Food Safety Scientific Committee.

The project was divided in two principal sections. On one hand, the sampling of 77 commercial cheese (the 63,6 % were elaborated in the Basque Country), where the biogenic amines presence was analyzed. And in the other hand, different internal elaboration was realized to know and validate the production factors in the biogenic amines presence.

The results show that, in some cases high concentration of this compound were detected, showing that there could exist a health risk for histamine sensitive people after eating cheese (14,29 % of blue cheese, 18,75 % of lactic cheese, 35,29 % of cooked hard cheese and 60.87 % of non-cooked hard cheese). The tyramine results showed that people in medical prescriptions for antidepressants (specially the classics, but also the third generation) can be in risk when they eat blue cheese (61.9 % of samples has more than 6 mg per serving) and non-cooked hard cheese (34,78 % of the samples has more than 6 mg per serving). To a lesser extent and only for those prescribed with classical drugs, lactic cheeses, soft cheeses, and cooked hard cheeses are the risky ones.

Nevertheless, the results show a big variability in histamine and tyramine concentrations, being a big number of cheeses free of these compounds. Probably, due to the dairy proteolysis diversity and microbial specific diversity from each cheese type and cheese piece. Because the biogenic amines generation requires of: 1) milk protein fragmentation in free amino acids like histidine and tyramine. 2) the presence of microorganisms like Lactobacillus parabuchneri which generates those compounds from the amino acids. However, a third step can be added where some microorganisms, such as Lactobacillus casei, are able to degrade the histamine and tyramine, eliminating the toxicity from the food. Hence, the presence or absence of those analytes is linked to the milk origin, the dairy technology used, the cheese ripening process and the conservation of every one of them.


The conclusion of GAZTAMINA project, is that there exist technological strategies to get free histamine and tyramine cheeses for the safe been of the population. For this reason, GAZTAMINA evolved to ELAMINA project, a new Basque Government funded project for 2023, with the support of ELIKA and the Food Safety Table from the Basque Country, where the dairy and molecular biology technologies are going to identify the microorganisms and the technological processes are going to be tested to produce free biogenic amines cheese for everyone’s safety.