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Food Safety

Main article: Food safety
When heat is used in the preparation of food, it can kill or inactivate potentially harmful organisms including bacteria and viruses.

Chicken with lemons on a large wooden cutting board.The effect will depend on temperature, cooking time, and technique used. The temperature range from 41 F to 135 F (5 C to 57 C) is the "food danger zone." Between these temperatures bacteria can grow rapidly. Under optimal conditions, E. coli, for example, can double in number every twenty minutes.

The food may not appear any different or spoiled but can be harmful to anyone who eats it. Meat, poultry, dairy products, and other prepared food must be kept outside of the "food danger zone" to remain safe to eat. Refrigeration and freezing do not kill bacteria, but only slow their growth.

When cooling hot food, it should not be left standing or in a blast chiller for more than 90 minutes. Cutting boards are a potential breeding ground for bacteria, and can be quite hazardous unless safety precautions are taken. Plastic cutting boards are less porous than wood and have conventionally been assumed to be far less likely to harbor bacteria. This has been debated, and some research has shown wooden boards are far better. Washing and sanitizing cutting boards is highly recommended, especially after use with raw meat, poultry, or seafood.

Hot water and soap followed by a rinse with an antibacterial cleaner (dilute bleach is common in a mixture of 1 tablespoon per gallon of water, as at that dilution it is considered food safe, though some professionals choose not to use this method because they believe it could taint some foods), or a trip through a dishwasher with a "sanitize" cycle, are effective methods for reducing the risk of illness due to contaminated cooking implements.

Effects on nutritional content of food

Proponents of Raw foodism argue that cooking food increases the risk of some of the detrimental effects on food or health. They point out that the cooking of vegetables and fruit containing vitamin C both elutes the vitamin into the cooking water and degrades the vitamin through oxidation.

Peeling vegetables can also substantially reduce the vitamin C content, especially in the case of potatoes where most vitamin C is in the skin. However, research has also suggested that a greater proportion of nutrients present in food is absorbed from cooked foods than from uncooked foods.

Baking, grilling or broiling food, especially starchy foods, until a toasted crust is formed generates significant concentrations of acrylamide, a possible carcinogen.

Cooking dairy products may reduce a protective effect against colon cancer. Researchers at the University of Toronto suggest that ingesting uncooked or unpasteurized dairy products (see also Raw milk) may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. Mice and rats fed uncooked sucrose, casein, and beef tallow had one-third to one-fifth the incidence of microadenomas as the mice and rats fed the same ingredients cooked. This claim, however, is contentious. According to the Food and Drug Administration of the United States, health benefits claimed by raw milk advocates do not exist. "The small quantities of antibodies in milk are not absorbed in the human intestinal tract," says Barbara Ingham, Ph.D., associate professor and extension food scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "There is no scientific evidence that raw milk contains an anti-arthritis factor or that it enhances resistance to other diseases."

Several studies published since 1990 indicate that cooking muscle meat creates heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which are thought to increase cancer risk in humans. Researchers at the National Cancer Institute found that human subjects who ate beef rare or medium-rare had less than one third the risk of stomach cancer than those who ate beef medium-well or well-done. While eating meat raw may be the only way to avoid HCAs fully, the National Cancer Institute states that cooking meat below 212 F (100 C) creates "negligible amounts" of HCAs. Also, microwaving meat before cooking may reduce HCAs by 90%.  Nitrosamines, present in processed and cooked foods, have also been noted as being carcinogenic, being linked to colon cancer.

Research has shown that grilling or barbecuing meat and fish increases levels of carcinogenic Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). However, meat and fish only contribute a small proportion of dietary PAH intake - most intake comes from cereals, oils and fats. German research in 2003 showed significant benefits in reducing breast cancer risk when large amounts of raw vegetable matter are included in the diet. The authors attribute some of this effect to heat-labile phytonutrients.

Heating sugars with proteins or fats can produce Advanced glycation end products ("glycotoxins").  These have been linked to ageing and health conditions such as diabetes.


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