Okay ... I admit it ... deep frying can make almost anything (I did say ALMOST!!!) appetizing but when you are trying to lose weight it almost (I did say ALMOST!!!) always has to be on the list of "STOP ... I must not have this".
I do try to keep things light (pun most definitely intended) in this blog ... even when I attempt to share serious information. When I came across this article from my local paper this week I felt I had to share it with my TOPS group as well as here. As if we need one more reason to avoid deep fried fast foods? Never mind the hit your calorie count takes, it can be a real health hazzard.
DEEP FRIED FOODS MAY BE WORSE THAN YOU THINK
Authors of a recent University of Guelph study – one of whom is a former restaurant inspector – are calling for public health standards for frying oil used in restaurants.
Waterloo Region Record
By Megan Ogilvie
From samosas to spring rolls, hand-cut fries to falafel balls, many of Canada's favourite restaurant foods are fried in hot oil.
Most are addictively crispy. Occasionally, a freshly fried food will taste off, a bit like bad fish.
This is the taste of oil that has been used for too long and has degraded, shedding hundreds of different compounds into the oil, which are then absorbed into the food.
Studies suggest some of these compounds are carcinogenic, while others may affect liver health or how well our bodies absorb certain vitamins.
Authors of a recent University of Guelph study – one of whom is a former restaurant inspector – are calling for public health standards for frying oils to help restaurant owners and restaurant inspectors know when to discard degraded oils.
Health concerns have prompted some countries in Europe to set standards for frying oil safety.
Canada has no such regulations.
"If you are tasting the bad oil, it is already affected," says Alejandro Marangoni, study co-author and professor of food science at the University of Guelph. "There are no guidelines whatsoever. It's all in the hands of the cooks."
He says the study, which tested in-use and discarded cooking oil from 20 independent restaurants in Toronto, raises concerns about the "toxicological safety" of old frying oils. The restaurants volunteered their samples to the study.
According to one laboratory measure, all the oil samples contained high levels of oxidation products, some of which have been shown to cause cancer in animals.
Another test found that 30 per cent of in-use oils and 45 per cent of discarded samples had free fatty acid levels – a measure of frying oil quality – beyond levels recommended by experts in the field.
Marangoni says the study – which they believe is the first to test frying oils used in restaurants, rather than oils simulated in a lab – should prompt public health agencies to include oil monitoring in their restaurant inspection programs.
Anitta Sebastian, a former Toronto Public Health inspector and the study's lead author, says such tests would not be hard to implement. Monitoring would be most important for independent restaurants, she says, since they are unlikely to have the internal standards and controls and automatic fryers used by restaurant chains.
Right now, Sebastian says, cooks in independent restaurants discard frying oils based on their smell or colour. Dark-coloured oils with food sediments have likely been used over and over.
me off in 2012 to complete a master's degree in food safety at the University of Guelph. The study, published in July in the journal Food Research International, is the result of her research.
Sebastian's former supervisor, Sylvanus Thompson, associate director of healthy environments at Toronto Public Health, agrees that visual inspections of frying oils – by restaurant cooks and by inspectors – are not ideal.
"If we had standards, we would be in a better position," he says, noting that two different cooks – and two different inspectors – may have differing opinions on what is considered overused oil.
Currently, inspectors who suspect a fryer holds contaminated oil can suggest restaurant cooks replace it. But they cannot enforce that recommendation, Thompson says.
"There are no standards, no set time limit that over X-number of days or X-number of uses, that oil should be changed," he says.
Public health units in the province enforce standards set by Ontario's Ministry of Health. Thompson says Toronto Public Health cannot step in on unless directed by the province.
Ministry of Health spokesperson David Jensen says while the agency is aware of the study and welcomes new research on food safety, it will not implement new frying oil standards at this time.
"The potential harm to human health of some of these compounds, based on this study, is not well-established," Jensen said in an email statement to the Star.
"Operators should follow manufacturer's instructions regarding the proper use of frying oil."
Marangoni, who holds a Canada Research Chair in food, health and aging, says further studies are needed to confirm whether consumption of degraded frying oils – and the
foods cooked in that oil – are harmful to human health over the long term.
"But it's not that the research is inconclusive, it's incomplete," he says. "Many of the compounds created in oxidation are carcinogenic; that is a fact. But does consuming the oil cause cancer? That is a more difficult question."
In an email statement, Canadian Food Inspection Agency spokesperson Tammy Jarbeau said: "Restaurant and food service inspection is generally carried out by provincial governments, municipalities or regional health services."
Sebastian, who is now a communicable disease investigator at Toronto Public Health, says that she and her co-authors are not alone in calling for public health standards for frying oils. She points to the recommendations of a 2011 international symposium on deep fat frying, which found that regulatory guidelines are needed to protect public health.
Until standards are in place, Sebastian says diners concerned about frying oils can take on the role of inspector by asking cooks about the freshness of the oil in their restaurant's fryers.
"You have the right to ask," she says. "It may prompt them to always think about the quality of the oil."