Only a decade ago, people used to take an hour or two to prepare meals. Now the same food can be served within a few minutes.
The recent years have seen a significant reduction in cooking time, which resulted in a large number of people who prefer to either go outside to eat or buy ready-to-eat food from the markets. Ready-to-cook food is also known as convenience food, as they are made to provide easy food access. Some of the convenience food requires you to heat food either in a pan or microwave and others simply need you to pop open their cans.
These foods contain partially, and sometimes, fully cooked meals, which make it easy to heat, prepare and eat. Furthermore, they are also loaded with desirable content. The foods for infants went through the same transformation. That is because time-saving food appeals greatly to working women and the ones who already find themselves, juggling through many things. Moreover, these kinds of foods are also loaded with food elements, like lipids, carbohydrates, fat and protein.
However, like everything made for convenience, these food items also compromise on health. What is worse is that the adverse effects from these foods are far more pronounced on highly susceptible consumers, such as infants.
The toxins found in food are minerals, ochratoxin, fumonisin B1 and B2, aromatic heterocyclic compounds, pesticide and even heavy metals such as mercury.
As a result of the compromised hygienic conditions that the commercially packed foods go through during processing, bacteria like cyanobacteria starts to grow inside, risking the health of the children, who are going to be fed. Cooking the food is, therefore, necessary, as it inactivates the bacterium breeding inside. Many cooking industries have tried to stress upon cooking as it gives the food with less perishable chemicals. However, at the same time, overheating can kickstart the thermal processes, which would dissolve substances with high thermolability, such as amino acids and vitamins. Chemical-physical processes, like lipid oxidation and caramelization and Maillard reaction, might also be triggered.
For a newborn, it is extremely crucial to provide the food rich in nutrients, whereas the processed baby food sold at commercial level goes through the high thermal process that significantly reduces the essential elements. Furthermore, the chemical process the food goes through gives birth to toxins that can pose grave health dangers to the baby.
The research aimed to identify the harmful chemicals present in processed infant foods, which are formed by the compounds derived from Maillard reactions, 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF). It also aimed to detect the compounds from total Maillard Reaction Products (MRPS) and evaluate the levels of HMF in the daily intakes of children. The results concluded that baby food samples included powdered milk, meat, powdered cream-based- cereal and canned vegetables have a very high percentage of HMF. (Calabretti et al., 2017,)
Furthermore, preservation and taste enhancement produce chemicals that pose an additional health challenge. Plastic coatings and food colouring increase the probability of harmful substances to grow inside. Parents who are habitual of using processed or canned food should be told about potential health problems that their kids can get affected by.
These compounds consist of entities that lead to genotoxicity, neurotoxicity, cytotoxicity and even reproductive toxicity. Most of these compounds then become the leading factor to trigger cancerous growth in different parts of the body.
Genotoxicity and Cytotoxicity
Genotoxicity is one of the properties of a chemical to poison the substance it’s present in by damaging the genetic information and causing mutations in its somatic and germ line cells. This should not be confused with mutagenic. In mutagenic, every mutant is thought to be genotoxic, while genotoxic components are not necessarily mutagenic. With mutagenicity. All mutagens are genotoxic, whereas all genotoxic substances are not mutagenic. As mutations are permanent changes that are also heritable, therefore they are passed into generations. Cells have inbuilt mechanisms called apoptosis and DNA repair to abstain the mutation of genotoxic substances. There are times when the damage is beyond repair, consequently, leading to permanent mutation.
Cytotoxicity, on the other hand, is the property of chemicals being poisonous to cells. It can be assessed by evaluating the number or levels of ATP.
Cancer occurs either during childhood or during the later stages of life.
This study aims to explore the components present in infant food, which become prominent factors in producing lethal consequences to the infant’s health.
This is a metalloid present in many food products. Rice is the major leading source of Arsenic in South Asian countries. As the arsenic-contaminated water is extensively used for the irrigation and cooking of the rice, it poses a great health risk for the people of this region, as rice is one of the staple foods. It is no surprise that rice today is the leading cause of cancer in South Asian people.
Furthermore, other symptoms include nausea, vomiting etc. Overexposure to Arsenic can cause severe damage to the lung, liver and kidney.
Azodicarbonamide and Semicarbazide
This product is used as an agent for blowing and foaming in food packaging in the glass jarred food. The recent jar technology, such as “Off” or “Push Twist” uses azodicarbonamide to form the seal.
Azodicarbonamide is responsible for a number of respiratory ailments due to asthmogenic and carcinogenic elements present in this compound.
Furthermore, this is also a potent endocrine disruptor and is also responsible for the alteration of Testosterone in rats.
This product is used as a flavouring agent in food. It is a very reactive molecule containing alpha and Beta unsaturated molecules. Extensive exposure to acrylamide can be extremely lethal for baby’s health.
This fatal product is present in bakery goods, due to the chemical reaction between reducing sugars, asparagines and super reactive carbonyls. Boiling the food doesn’t produce Acrylamide, however, baking and frying result in an abundance of it.
Acrylamide is a genotoxic element that produces changes in the genetic makeup of cells, somatic mutation, chromosomal aberrations and gene mutations etc. Consequently, leading to the nephrotoxicity and inhibitory effect before synaptic function. A study was conducted on toddlers in Turkey, which showed high levels of Acrylamide in baby foods, such as bread, crackers, baby biscuits and powdered cereals. (Singh et al., 2017)
Calabretti, A., Calabrese, M., Campisi, B., &Bogoni, P. (2017). Quality and Safety in Commercial Baby Foods. Department of Economics, Management, Mathematics and Statistics “Bruno de Finetti”, University of Trieste, Trieste, Italy, 5(1), 587-593. Singh, N. A., Mathur, N., Pareek, & S. (2017). BABY FOODS CAN ALSO HAVE TOXIC SIDE EFFECTS: A REVIEW. Department of Zoology, University of Rajasthan, Jawahar Lal Nehru Marg, Jaipur, Rajasthan, 302004, 08(03), 4386-4393.