Saturday, April 10, 2010

Mmm. Cancerrific.


Et tu, char-grilled ribeye?


Every night I came home from working at the Steakback Outhouse, I smelled of fried onion, french fries, hamburgers, and other assorted seared and char-grilled meats. My boyfriend always complained of the grease on my shoes and the odor, but I thought that's where the offenses ended.

Turns out I was wrong.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota and Carleton College in Minnesota have conspired to reveal the dangers of commercial cooking. The frying of fatty foods releases particles that are carcinogenic, elevating the air pollution in restaurants' general vicinities. Diners and restaurant staff have been getting free lungfuls of the stuff for years!

Unfortunately, the foods that create the most hazardous emissions are delicious "fatty foods cooked with high heat, especially with open flames, such as cooking hamburger patties on a conveyor broiler". The aforementioned hamburgers, chicken cooked in peanut oil (read: Chinese food), and even pepperoni pizza cooked in an oven create emissions. Previous research has found that "for every 1,000 pounds of hamburger cooked on conveyor broilers, 25 pounds of emissions were created". Should the Green Gestapo ever decide to ban these air pollutants, at least pizza is safe, since it produces less harmful emissions than the other foods.





Not as meaty, but I'll take it.
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/punch_pizza/



In a nutshell:
"These experiments help us to assess what needs to be replicated in standardized laboratory tests, and to suggest better methods of emission control," Gross said. "In combination with other measurements, we can provide a relatively comprehensive chemical and physical signature of the emissions from various cooking operations. Not only do these emissions affect air quality, but they contain chemicals that are known carcinogens."

We have the inquisitive folk who partook in the 239th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Francisco as well as Deborah Gross, PhD and company to thank (?) for this research.

6 comments:

  1. So.. let me get this straight. Burning stuff creates emissions... and emissions from burning stuff is bad for your lungs. Truly ground breaking!

    There is still no real indication (at least from the article quoted) that emissions from cooking beef are any more harmful than non-beef products, or that emissions from food are truly that harmful at all. It just leads the reader to believe that all emissions from cooking are bad, without any evidence to prove otherwise (besides volume of emissions).

    All in all, the staple argument of "carcinogens" is not enough to convince this reader otherwise.

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  2. @Zandy: From the article "Kuehn's previous research has found that for every 1,000 pounds of hamburger cooked on conveyor broilers, 25 pounds of emissions are created. The same weight of pepperoni pizza cooked in an oven created just three pounds of emissions."

    I'm pretty sure that any emissions you can't breathe are, in fact, bad - displacing (as they do) breathable air. As such, it follows that the restaurant industry is not any "holier" than the auto industry or home construction, and high-emission items will soon be taxed and regulated BY VOLUME OF EMISSIONS.

    I don't think that's what's being said in this article, but I so think you'd be much more hard-pressed to find cooking emissions that were "good" than emissions that were bad (carcinogenic or otherwise).

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  3. @Zanderech:

    Thanks for the input, but it seems like you didn't read the article from Sciencedaily.com thoroughly.

    The article does not focus on beef as the primary source of harmful emissions, nor does it state that "all emissions from cooking are bad". Neither, might I add, does this blog post.

    The article does state that a certain combination in commercial cooking (the high heat of a conveyer broiler coupled with fatty food) as well as specific kinds of oils (their example was peanut oil) used in frying produce high volumes of emissions. So, no worries, there, your sirloin is safe.

    How you could come up with the conclusion that "there is still no real indication (at least from the article quoted) that emissions from food are truly all that harmful at all" is a failure on your part. From the article: "Not only do these emissions affect air quality, but they contain chemicals that are known carcinogens."

    These SCIENTISTS "set out to get the chemical signature of the mouth-watering aroma from the cooking process. They used a novel combination of chemical and physical measurements of the aerosol particles -- solid and liquid droplets -- emitted from food being cooked" (quoted, again, from the article you read). Perhaps your beef is that the known carcinogens weren't named in the article?


    Now, I did neglect to mention the potential repercussions of this study on the restaurant industry in my post, which is what I thought was the most interesting point. That's crap on my part, and I'll communicate more effectively on future posts.

    The meaning of this research reaches far beyond the simplistic conclusion that "emissions are bad for you". It will play a part in the growing trend in restaurant regulation, as the investigators' previous research already has:

    "The project, also involving Carleton undergraduate student Lisa Wang, already has resulted in two air quality management districts in California implementing restrictions on commercial cooking emissions. They are the South Coast and Bay Area Air Quality Management Districts. Much of the Los Angeles Basin now requires the use of catalytic converters to minimize the release of aerosol particles from charbroiler grates."

    So, it doesn't matter whether You are convinced by this research. People who have the power to change the way businesses are run already are.

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  4. @Frankie Berti & JoJo
    "These SCIENTISTS "set out to get the chemical signature of the mouth-watering aroma from the cooking process. They used a novel combination of chemical and physical measurements of the aerosol particles -- solid and liquid droplets -- emitted from food being cooked""

    What are the names of these chemicals? How do they affect the human respiratory system? How long do they remain present in the environment? Besides the people that make a conscious effort to enter a restaurant or eatery, how likely will these "emissions" affect general air quality within "X" amount of feet to "Y" amount of miles? How long do they linger?

    Generalities and hearsay do not suffice.

    The answers to these questions then lead to questions about the arguments Mr. JoJo and yourself have posted in regards to industry regulation.

    Do the health benefits of regulating current industry standards outweigh the financial burden placed on the restaurant industry?

    Can the food industry afford the financial burden of regulating emissions from cooking the most popular foods that consumers constantly purchase, and eat?

    My point is that this article does not tell the educated reader anything new. A bunch of scientists got together with some tools that could make precise measurements and they came to the conclusion that carcinogens are in the air when you cook food, they are bad, and you should not consume them.

    And Mr. Borras makes my point in regards to the assumptions that are to be taken from this article:

    "I'M PRETTY SURE (caps for emphasis) that any emissions you can't breathe are, in fact, bad - displacing (as they do) breathable air."

    Thats what I initially thought when I read this article, but just making an assumption and moving on made me very uncomfortable. For an article written and posted by and for members of the scientific community, it seemed rather slim in substance(DATA and RESEARCH). All it mentions is one study regarding hamburger meat. Typically the scientific community does not resort to hearsay when making their points/arguments.

    We shouldn't be making policy based on assumptions. California hasn't been the ideal model for...well...any policy making over the last thirty years. Just because one jurisdiction, historically known for being hypersensitive to green and health issues, has decided to take action based on these studies is not an indication of what administrative organizations across the country adopt as their policy on these issues as a whole. If what this article states is all they have to work with, and they make policy based on limited research, then it is their prerogative, no matter how reckless that decision may be. Government should always be questioned and questioned again before being trusted.

    However, I think you were using that statement to belittle my opinion and paint it as minuscule in light of the what California bureaucrats have decided is good policy. Tis' Tis' Frankie. My intention was not to push buttons.

    Please understand that I posted my thoughts as comments not on the opinion of the blogger, but on the content of the post/article referenced. I have an interest in food, I find this blog intriguing and entertaining, and I feel the content the author mentions is exciting and attention getting.

    I wish only the best, and I hope you continue writing.

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