The Safety Issues With Tyramine

Clipart of cheese with holes in it. A source of histamine and tyramine.
Clipart by OpenClipart Vectors, c/o Pixabay.

Tyramine is the most commonly found in biogenic amine in food. It is produced by microorganisms in a range of foods by the decarboxylation of the amino-acid tyrosine. It  is one of the most problematic compounds in food manufacture and its levels need to be controlled in a manner similar to histamine (Naila et al., 2010; Linares et al., 2013).

Sources Of Tyramine

Commonly found in fermented foods like cheese, fish sauces, soybean sauce, some wines and even beer  (Alvarez & Moreno‐Arribas, 2014).

Symptoms Of Tyramine Poisoning

Tyramine was first identified in the 1960s as the agent causing the ‘cheese effect’ which was discovered by a British scientist trying to understand why his wife suffered severe headaches and migraines when she ate cheese even though she was on medication which inhibited the enzyme monoamine oxidase (Sathyanarayana Rao et al., 2009). Tyramine causes neurological disorders and headaches as well as hypertension and respiratory problems in those who consume foods high in this compound (Asatoor et al., 1963; Davies, 1963).

Regulatory Aspects

Tyramine is a biological hazard in foods and beverages according to both the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) (EFSA 2011; FAO 2014). However, tyramine is not present in very fresh foods.  It occurs and increases during storage of many foods due to microbial decarboxylation of tyrosine amino acid.


Traditionally, high pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC) with ultraviolet (UV) or florescence (FL) detector method was used to determine tyramine in different food products (Önal et al., 2013).


Alvarez, M.A. & Moreno‐Arribas, V. (2014). The problem of biogenic amines in fermented foods and the use of potential biogenic amine‐degrading microorganisms as a solutionTrends in Food Science and Technology39, pp. 146155

Asatoor, A.M.Levi, A.J. & Milne, M.D.(1963). Tranylcypromine and cheeseLancet2, pp. 733734

Davies, E.B. (1963). Tranylcypromine and cheeseLancet2, pp. 691692

EFSA Panel on Biological Hazards (2011). Scientific opinion on risk based control of biogenic amine formation in fermented foodsEFSA Journal92393

FAO (2014). Assessment and management of seafood safety and quality: Current practices and emerging issues. FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper, p. 574.

Linares, D.M.del Rio, B.Ladero, V. et al. (2013). The putrescine biosynthesis pathway in Lactococcus lactis is transcriptionally regulated by carbon catabolic repression, mediated by CcpAInternational Journal of Food Microbiology1654350

Naila, A.Flint, S.Fletcher, G.Bremer, P.Meerdink, G. (2010). Control of biogenic amines in food existing and emerging approachesJournal of Food Science, 5R139R150

Önal, A.Tekkeli, S.E.K. & Önal, C. (2013). A review of the liquid chromatographic methods for the determination of biogenic amines in foodsFood Chemistry138, pp. 509515

Sathyanarayana Rao, T.S.Vikram, K. & Yeragani, V.K. (2009). Hypertensive crisis and cheeseIndian Journal of Psychiatry, 51, pp. 6566

1 Comment

  1. I have known for some time that cheese causes horrible headaches for me. I did not know that tyramine might be the reason why. Thankyou for this information. I will be reading up on a lot more about this unusual chemical. I am also looking at some other chemicals in paint and wallpaper which I think might cause my pain.

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