In this study, four food preservatives (sodium nitrate, sodium nitrite, potassium nitrate and potassium nitrite) and there five combinations at a concentration of 25 mM have been evaluated for genotoxicity in the somatic mutation and recombination test (SMART) of Drosophila melanogaster. Three-day-old larvae trans-heterozygous including two linked recessive wing hair mutations (multiple wing hairs and flare) were fed at different concentrations of the test compounds (25, 50, 75 and 100 mM) in standard Drosophila Instant Medium. Wings of the emerging adult flies were scored for the presence of spots of mutant cells, which can result from either somatic mutation or mitotic recombination. Also lethal doses of food preservatives used were determined in the experiments. A positive correlation was observed between total mutations and the number of wings having mutation. In addition, the observed mutations in each wing were classified according to the size and type of the mutation. For the evaluation of genotoxic effects, the frequencies of spots per wing in the treated series were compared to the control group, which is distilled water. Chemicals used were ranked as sodium nitrite, potassium nitrite, sodium nitrate and potassium nitrate according to their genotoxic and toxic effects. Moreover, the genotoxic and toxic effects produced by the combined treatments were considerably increased, especially when the four chemicals were mixed. The present study shows that correct administration of food preservatives/additives may have a significant effect on human health. © 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.