Food and Grilling Safety

With 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?

The 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 AGEs.

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 individuals.

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 disease.

How to Minimize AGE Intake When Cooking, Grilling and Eating

New 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.

Susan 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 tasty meal.

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

Foods 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.

Thawing Meat

By 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

Grilling 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.

A 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.


Some 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

If you have concerns about grilling safety and food safety, it is recommended that you consult a license dietitian or health care provider.

Food Processing Conveyors and Other Machinery

When a factory produces food or drink they have to adhere to very strict hygiene standards which are in force these days. To do this the food processing areas need to have been hygienically designed and properly cleaned and maintained. Processing food could involve a number of processes, for instance some food stuff will need to be sieved to be the correct size, ingredients may need to be added, counted and then packed. Each process will be done on different machinery which means the food stuff needs to be conveyed to each process. All of these processes including the moving food stuffs to the next process could be prone to food contamination if the machines and surfaces used are not hygienic clean and maintained. Some of the machines which are used to process food are linear feeders, Vibraflo Through Sieve, bucket elevators, conveyor systems and vibratory screen feeder to name just a few. Today they are all designed and built with the best materials for processing food. Below are a few examples of machines and their use.

Hygenic conveyor systems are normally made out of stainless steel as the material is virtually immune to staining, resists the build up of matter, impervious to attack by chemical or biological agents and is very easy to clean. The belt material is often made out of polyurethane which again is perfect for food as it is an inert material that does not contaminate the products carried on it.

Bucket elevators are for when food or other material needs to be elevated. This could be for a number of reasons but if the material is food then the bucket elevator also needs to be made of materials to ensure the food does not get contaminated.

Sieves and screens are designed for dewatering, scalping and single deck separation. The vibraflo through sieve is machine ideal for food material such as coffee. Many products like coffee need to be sifted through before they go onto the packaging stage and the vibraflo through screen can screen 5,000kgs per hour.

Vibrating feeders are feeding machines which have a vibrating feature so food or materials can move along to the next process evenly and continually. Again if the feeders are going to be used for food then the feeder will need to be made from hygienic materials. They are widely used in the chemical, building and mining industries

Many of these machines are bespoke as they are designed for different processes; some are designed to work where there is a shortage of space. Some will be for food so hygienic materials are needed, other times not. So buying a second hand machine which was designed for another process is not a good idea. You can get refurbished machines which will cost far less, but it is far better to go directly to a manufacture of these types of machines and explain exactly what you want the machine to do.

How Much Raw Food Is Enough?

There is a lot of debate surrounding this subject. Some people say that you should go 100%. Others disagree. There are those who say that the only way to get the best from raw food is if you take nothing else but it. Other people say that a diverse diet composed of 50% to 70% raw will do just fine.

Many things are open to debate in the raw food world. Take cacao for example, some people advocate its use and say that it is the answer to your chocolate cravings. Then again, there are those who say it’s toxic and that it’s better to stay away from it.

Whether you take cacao or not depends on your own decision and whom you listen to. The same thing goes for how little or how much your diet is composed of raw food.

I personally believe that there are no rules to what percentage of raw or live food you should be taking. However, if there is anything you should be listening to, it’s your body. Plus, it’s better to have more live food in your way of eating than not!

If your body is telling you that it can take more and that you can benefit from increasing your raw or live food intake, then go ahead. There are people who do well with 100% raw food diet. They see a great deal of improvement in their health from doing so. Many see it as a lifestyle, one that they cannot live without. It has become who they are and they cannot see anything other than taking it 100%.

On the other hand, some people benefit better from having a more diverse diet. It could be because their bodies cannot cope with some of the constraints of an all-raw food diet plan. Time and accessibility may also be an issue.

If you are new to the raw world and if you are wondering how much of it you should take, it is advised that you should only take the amounts that you are comfortable with. You can start with just a meal or two a day for a few days a week, or starting the day with a green smoothie or substituting salads instead of fries with your meals and without all those crappy dressings.

Be sure to listen to how your body is reacting to your new diet. Take your energy levels into consideration. Figure out if you are getting a boost in your energy or if its making you feel bogged down.

Over time, your body will change and adjust. Soon, you may be able to live with a diet of up to 80% raw food. You may even be able to accommodate 100% on days.

Adjust your live food intake based on how your body is reacting to it. It is your best compass and the best way of finding out how much raw food is right for you. Keep things as natural as possible. Even if you do not go for 100% raw food, ensure that you still make healthy choices. Organic food items will work well.

Don’t be so hard on yourself when it comes to making this decision. Keep in mind that you should always listen to your body. There are no fixed rules except nurturing and nourishment. Do what is best for you and the benefits are going to follow.