The mutagenic activity of 9 brands of commerciał meat extracts were compared using Ames tester strain TA 98 with hepatic S-9 activation prior to concentration by solvent extraction. In a preincubation test system where 20 mg of intact meat extract preparations were tested per plate, about half of the brands were non-mutagenic whereas the other half increased the spontaneous revertant number by a factor of 2.5-3 (MF). The mutagenic principals could be extracted into methylene chloride under alkaline conditions and the mutagenic activity of these basic organic extracts ranged in potency from a mutation factor of 7-40 (280-1600 revertants) per 2 g equivalents of intact meat extracts in the standard Ames test. A quantitative correlation was obtained between the two trials (intact and extracted samples). The commercial meat extract with the greatest activity contained approximately 70 ng/g of total amino-imidazoquinoline and amino-imidazoquinoxaline compounds while the weakest brand of meat extract contained less than 10 ng/g of these heterocyclic aromatic amines. The human intake of these heterocyclic amines from meat extract in bouillon soups was estimated at maximally 100 ng/day and is approximately 103 times less than the estimated total daily intake of all heterocyclic amines which are known to be formed in protein-rich heated foods.