Abstract Rapadura is the commercial name for unrefined dehydrated sugarcane juice. Rapadura is produced in 25 countries, for an estimated total of 13 million tons per year. It is considered a basic food for the School Meals Program (PNAE) in Brazil, which serves 37 million meals to schoolchildren each day. During the production of rapadura, carcinogenic compounds including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) may enter this food. A simple and rapid method was optimized and validated for the determination of 16 PAHs in commercial rapadura by high performance liquid chromatography with fluorescence detection (HPLC-FL). PAHs were measured in 80% of the samples ( n = 21) at levels ranging from 0.07 to 4.03 μg kg −1. These data reveal a wide variability in PAH concentrations in the samples, indicated that sugar-cane burning and/or production are important for introduction of these contaminants into rapadura. In Brazil, there are no maximum acceptable PAH levels in this food.