more and more Americans spending time outdoors, it is no surprise that
food safety and grilling are becoming more front-and-center in the news.
Recent studies have revealed that if grilling is not done correctly,
the food you grill and serve to your family could contain toxins, which
can be dangerous to health.
Incorrect culinary preparation,
particularly during barbecuing, could advance intake of toxins linked to
many health problems such as heart and kidney disease, diabetes,
vascular, and Alzheimer’s diseases. In fact, a recent study performed at
Mount Sinai School of Medicine showed that levels of AGEs, a toxin
called advanced glycation end products, are drawn into the blood stream
by eating large quantities of food that is cooked by grilling, frying or
broiling at temperatures that are considered too high. In otherwise
healthy people, higher levels of AGEs were documented and linked to the
consumption of foods prepared improperly.
What Causes Toxins in Food?
study revealed that food preparation as well as the temperature by
which the food is cooked has a direct correlation to the level of AGE
toxins in food. In addition to the preparation methods of food, the
study showed a significant relationship between the amount of AGEs in
the diet and the level of AGEs in one’s blood. The amount of sugar, fat
or calories consumed did not affect the AGE levels in the bloodstream as
did the specific quantities of foods consumed which contain dangerous
Along with the host of health problems listed, inflammation
and stress have been documented to be related to high levels of AGEs in
the bloodstream. Inflammation and stress are more prevalent in older
individuals, therefore the purpose of the study was to determine whether
AGEs played a considerable role in age-associated inflammation and
stress by charting the AGE blood levels in young as well as elderly
The consequences of the study found that AGE levels
could be extremely high in both the young participants of the study as
well as the elderly participants. Indeed, high documented levels of AGE
levels were found in some healthy adults in this research, which were on
target with the AGE levels recognized in diabetic patients. The truth
that hearty adults had levels resembling those seen in diabetic patients
may insinuate that early and lasting exposure to AGE toxins in the diet
could expedite the brunt of these diseases.
The presence of AGEs
in food are very disingenuous because they give food an appealing smell
and taste, according to Helen Vlassara, MD, Professor of Medicine and
Geriatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and senior study author,
Director of the Division of Experimental Diabetes and Aging. Dr.
Vlassara refereed to the availability and intake of food with high
levels of AGE with increasing documented cases of diabetes and heart
How to Minimize AGE Intake When Cooking, Grilling and Eating
barbecue grills on the market today should include a combination of
ways to decrease the cooking duration and temperature, while at the same
time increasing water retention.
Recommendations to reduce AGE
levels in food include selecting lean foods like fish chicken or
vegetables, instead of fatty meats like hamburgers or beef steaks.
Goodman, a dietitian at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, recommends
cooking fish, seafood or vegetables in aluminum pouches that are sealed.
She says by preparing food in this manner the food is steamed, even if
cooked on the grill. Foods which are excellent candidates for grilling
in an aluminum pouch include vegetables such as potatoes and fresh fish
with herbs which can be incorporated in the pouches for a healthy and
More recommendations from professionals who have
studied the effects of grilling safety concur this. Tara Miller,
Registered Dietitian and Program Manager for the Center for Corporate
Wellness at NYU Medical Center recommends that grills be kept clean. It
is imperative grills are cleaned prior to cooking because a charred
grill increases food’s acclamation to dangerous toxins. Instead of
marinating food with a bottled marinate or home-made rub, it is
recommended that barbecue fans use vinegar, lime or lemon juice on the
food prior to cooking. These items cause the food to cook faster, which
in-turn allows the chef to reduce the temperature on the grill. Also,
Miller makes it clear that acids from items such as vinegar, lime or
lemon juice dwarf the transfer process of toxic AGEs into food.
Shopping Tips for Food Safety
like meat and poultry should be added to the shopping cart immediately
before checkout. This way, they have a higher tendency to remain cold.
And be sure to sort raw meat and poultry separately so that they do not
contaminate the other food in the shopping cart. To protect against
cross-contamination which can occur when poultry and raw meat juices
splash or leak on other foods, it is best to put the poultry and raw
meat into plastic bags. For those that are worried about the effects of
plastic bags on the environment, plastic bins with a tightly-sealed top
can be brought from home to the store. The bins should be washed out
with hot water and soap after removal of the meat so that the bins are
safe to use again to the next grocery-store shopping excursion.
completely thawing the meat and poultry prior to cooking, the food
cooks more evenly which as an added benefit, cooks more quickly. Again,
the goal is to lower the temperature on the grill so as to reduce
introduction of AGE toxins. The best way to thaw meat is in the
refrigerator so that the food is thawed slowly and safely. Another safe
thawing alternative is to thaw food in sealed packages within cold
water. If in a pinch, a microwave on defrost setting can be used to
safely thaw meat as long as it is immediately cooked after thawing.
Skip the Grill
is a luxury, such as eating ice cream and cake. We are not recommending
that you should skip grilling altogether, but grilling safety should be
taken into consideration when planning the weekly menu. Health
alternatives to grilling include boiling, steaming or stewing food.
safe alternative to grilling is smoking food. In a professional food
smoker, the cooking process is slow so that less tender meats benefit
and the natural smoke flavor penetrates the food. The temperature of the
smoker can be kept within a safe range of 250 to 300 degrees F.
studies indicate there may be a cancer risk associated with consuming
foods that are prepared using very high-heat such as grilling, frying or
broiling. However, based on recent studies, it has been found that
eating moderate amount of foods such as fish, lean meat and poultry
cooked at a safe temperature, without chairing, does not cause a risk.
Consult a Professional about Grilling Safety
you have concerns about grilling safety and food safety, it is
recommended that you consult a license dietitian or health care