Sunday, May 23, 2010


Defending food technology is not easy because of its purported influence on the declining health status of populations in many rich countries. Food technology is blamed because it has enabled processing the industry to churn out nutritionally imbalanced foods at low cost tempting the consumers to patronize them regularly. It is not realized that most technologies can be like a double edged sword having potential for good as well as bad things in life. Just because a knife, which is a part of any kitchen system, can cause injury if wrongly used, technology also can be misused by those with ulterior motives. This is true with food technology also and fraudsters, adulterators and profiteers can use the same technological means to make unsafe, cheap, misleading, camouflaged products to deceive the consumers. This does not mean that the discipline of food technology should be held responsible for the ills of the society. Here is an amplification of the above truth brought out in a recent exposition on the subject, putting the issue in a correct perspective.

"The natural foods industry has grown largely because of the erroneous notion that naturally occurring substances makes them safer as drugs or medicines than their processed counterparts. A quantitative analytical scrutiny of that which nature has provided reveals the presence of numerous natural toxins: Ricin, an extremely toxic lectin found in legumes and fatal to humans, was used as an insecticide at one time. Fortunately, heat destroys the toxicity of lectins. Chick peas and vetch contain lathyrogens which can potentially cause a crippling paralysis of the lower limbs and may result in death. Protease inhibitors are widely distributed throughout the plant kingdom, particularly in the Leguminosae and, to a lesser extent, in cereal grains and tubers. Potatoes contain numerous natural poisons, including solanine, a narcotic-like substance. Solanine is known to cause neurologic and/or gastrointestinal problems. Solanine can build up to toxic levels when potatoes are exposed to sunlight during storage. Cassava, lima beans, and the seeds of some fruits–apricots and peaches for example, are members of a group called cyanogens, precursors to the deadly poison cyanide. As a point of interest, laetrile is a cyanogen that was mistakenly represented as a cancer cure. While laetrile was effective in killing the cancer cells, it did so only at a concentration lethal to patient. Broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, mustard greens, radishes, and turnips all contain small amounts of goitrogens (glucosinolates), that can enlarge the thryroid gland and aggravate thyroid problems. Goitrogens are estimated to contribute approximately 4% to the worldwide incidence of goiters in humans. The most potent natural toxins responsible for human health risks are the mycotoxins. These are toxic metabolites produced by fungi infesting foodstuffs, especially cereals and nuts. Mycotoxins are known to have caused ergotism "St. Anthony's Fire," To avoid poisoning, eat all foods in moderation, choose a variety of foods, and avoid fad diets that advocate single food consumption concept".

That processed foods can take care of these naturally occurring toxins and undesirable constituents to make safer and more nutritious foods, is an established fact and must be conceded. Nature "lovers", preaching consumption of every thing that is natural, also must realize this truth. Criticism of any thing and every thing is more a disease with many and unless they are validated by science and the ground reality, they are just "lime light" seeking attempts best to be ignored. Atomic research can never be condemned because it was used for making destructive bombs while ignoring the benefits derived by mankind in food preservation saving precious foods which otherwise would have been spoiled and in medical field saving millions of precious lives. Before condemning any technology a realistic risk-benefit analysis must be done and one may be justified in taking a critical stand if risks far outweigh benefits.


No comments: