Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Health & Fitness: Is Halogen Oven Safe For The Health?


A chicken in a halogen oven
Image from German Pool
Yes, it is kind of new, and yes, it is convenient, energy-efficient, high-power and quick when getting your food cooked, especially the chicken. (Don't understand why every halogen oven ad has a whole chicken in it, maybe it is the most difficult thing to cook thoroughly.)

Whole chicken in the halogen oven
Image from German Pool

Some companies claim that this halogen oven only takes 1/3 of the cooking time conventional appliances do and saves up to 60% on energy costs, simplifying all the steps involved in the cooking methods such as grill, bake, pan-fry, braise, toast, steam, broil, roast, reheat and defrost into just ONE step -- put the food in, I mean, how cool is that? Who wouldn't want one? Who doesn't you want to become a master chef who can cook a whole chicken by effortlessly turning a knob in the machine?

Whole chicken already cooked by a halogen oven
Image from Groupon.hk
That's not all, looking at that attractive price makes me want to grab one immediately!

But wait! I can smell something fishy here...

If there is something this magical, shouldn't there be something weird to it too? Specifically, will eating the food cooked with a halogen oven causes cancer? At the end of the day, the food is to be eaten, everything that goes through our gastrointestinal tract should first be asked about its safety.

The Centre of Food Safety of Hong Kong has an article talking about Radiation and Food Safety of using a halogen oven, which I must say, is very poorly written. I have included a screen-cap of it below:

Image from cfs.gov.hk
Excuse me! Why are we talking about disinfecting food here? I want to know if the food cooked by a halogen oven will cause cancer or not, why are you telling me about germs and spores? Which high-temperature cooking method doesn't kill germs and spores I ask you?

There isn't much answers from the internet when searching in English. Luckily, with the help of my wife -- who remembers watching something about the halogen oven from the news -- I finally found the relevant information I need.

Associate Professor Dr. Lam of the biology and chemistry department @ City University of Hong Kong
Image from appledaily.com.hk
In the news article and the video, Dr. Lam argues that the cooking food with a halogen oven through the use of far infrared is practically the same as barbecuing food. During the cooking process, once the temperature reaches over 300°C, the amino acids, creatine (and glucose) react to produce a chemical substance known as heterocyclic amine (HCA), some of which are known to be carcinogenic[1]. He further stated that as the creatine level is high in chicken, more HCAs will be created in the process of cooking with halogen oven.

At constant cooking temperature of 115°C, creatine level stablises at around 2 minutes, so as the HCAs level
Images from edb.utexas.edu
But to be fair, we can't blame the halogen oven for producing carcinogenic food, the culprits are the high-temp cooking methods. According to Pais et al.(1999), Researchers have identified 16 types of HCAs produced from the cooking of muscle meats (beef, chicken breast, chicken thigh, turkey breast, pork and fish) which could increase the risk of cancer in human. Chicken meat is definitely on the list of course, also are beef, pork, fish and other poultry[2]. As for seafood, Rizwan Khan et al. (2013) discovers that fried swordfish is among the richest known sources of HCAs which is even higher than that in fried chicken[3].


The level of creatine does not stablise with temperature rises
Images from edb.utexas.edu
All in all, it is important to know that the higher the cooking temperature the lower the creatine in meat and the more the HCAs are produced. This production of HCAs cannot be avoided as long as cooking is involved, so in this "the-devil-and-the-deep-blue-sea" situation, it is therefore better to cook meats slowly at a lower temperature than to cook meats quickly at a higher temperature, since the level of creatine and HCAs do level off at a constant temperature with increasing cooking time.

Sometimes, faster isn't better.

Image from blog.pcnametag.com

Image from inboundsales.net


Therefore, our conclusion is that using a halogen oven for cooking does not directly cause immediate health hazards, but whether the way it has been marketed as a convenient, time-saving, high-speed cooking appliance actually induces the users desire to cook speedier food at a higher temperature more frequently could make a great topic for discussions.

For more information, do read the articles listed in the Resources sessions below. And as always, leave a comment below and tell me what you think. You may also like to download the Locky's English Playground app for better reading experience on your Android smartphone (sorry, no iPhone app).


Vocabulary:
halogen oven / cooker / cooking pot -- (n)[C] an appliance which uses far infrared from a halogen lamp to cook food
smell fishy -- to seem suspicious.
gastrointestinal tract -- (n)[C] the stomach and intestine,[1] sometimes including all the structures from the mouth to the anus.
far infrared -- (n)[U] a region in the infrared spectrum of electromagnetic radiation. Far infrared is often defined as any radiation with a wavelength of 15 micrometers (µm) to 1 mm (corresponding to a range of about 20 THz to 300 GHz), which places far infrared radiation within the CIE IR-B and IR-C bands.
heterocyclic amine (HCA) -- (n)[U] chemical compounds containing at least one heterocyclic ring, which by definition has atoms of at least two different elements, plus the compound has at least one amine (nitrogen-containing) group. Carcinogenic heterocyclic amines are created by high temperature cooking of meat, for example.
carcinogenic -- (adj) refers to a substance that causes cancer
culprit -- (n)[C] fact or situation that is the reason for something bad happening:
the devil and the deep blue sea -- (idiom) to have two choices that are both equally unpleasant or not convenient
hazard -- (n)[C] something that is dangerous and likely to cause damage:


Resources:
Food Safety Focus - Radiation and Food Safety @ Centre for Food Safety
http://www.cfs.gov.hk/english/multimedia/multimedia_pub/multimedia_pub_fsf_56_02.html

Halogen Cooking Pot | HK Top Brand | Hong Kong Q-Mark @ German Pool
http://www.germanpool.com/eng/products/list_hp.php

光波爐煮食如BBQ 患癌機會增 @ Apple Daily
http://hk.apple.nextmedia.com/news/art/20121104/18057214

錫紙BBQ損性能力 光波爐都唔啱食 @ YouTube
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=olme80Ut0GI

Far Infrared @ Wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Far_infrared

Heterocyclic amine (HCAs) @ Wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heterocyclic_amine

[1] Handbook of Analysis of Active Compounds in Functional Foods
http://books.google.com.hk/books?id=9yLrG9OgfM8C&pg=PA107&lpg=PA107&dq=Pais+et+al.+(1999)+creatine&source=bl&ots=S_crTvNRw9&sig=S1aqQa_Zcf85xeOWgnB8ozwPC5w&hl=en&sa=X&ei=YfYBUt_kGc3PlAXA8oHYCw&ved=0CDMQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=Pais%20et%20al.%20(1999)%20creatine&f=false

[2] Formation of Mutagenic/Carcinogenic Heterocyclic Amines in Dry-Heated Model Systems, Meats, and Meat Drippings - Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (ACS Publications)
http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf980644e

[3] Identification of Seafood as an Important Dietary Source of Heterocyclic Amines by Chemometry and Chromatography–Mass Spectrometry
http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/tx4001682

Creatine Supplementation: Maintenance of Elevated Levels through the Diet @ The University of Texus At Austin
http://www.edb.utexas.edu/ssn/SN%20PDF/Creatine-Levels%20&%20Diet.PDF

Technology & Message: Locky's English Playground App v1.0.1 (Alpha) @ Locky's English Playground
http://lockyep.blogspot.com/2013/08/technology-message-lockys-english.html

http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/smell+fishy
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_gastrointestinal_tract
http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/carcinogenic?q=carcinogenic+
http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/culprit?q=culprit
http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/be-between-the-devil-and-the-deep-blue-sea?q=the+devil+and+the+deep+blue+sea
http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/hazard_1?q=hazard+

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