Saturday, February 22, 2014

Food Chemistry: Food Allergies and the Paleo Diet {Week 7}

Being that I have many food allergies myself, it was very interesting to spend this week talking about food allergies in our populations. People may not think that food allergies have anything to do with food hazards. But the allergy, is the food hazard. Take for example, Celiacs disease, which prevents the consumption of gluten is diagnosed in 1 in 33 Americans according to the National Foundation for Celiacs . The recent hype of gluten-free diets is both from the those with Celiacs but mostly for people with gluten sensitivity issues, which is totally different. Celiacs actually ruins the gut of the individual if they consume gluten. The microvilli that are running along the brush border of their small intestine become inactive and eliminated, due to the consumption of gluten. But usually those diagnosed with Celiacs take years before realizing that this is their issue. There is no “blood test” for celiacs. Repeated exposure to gluten, however, increases the subjects sensitivity to gluten and therefore can lead to a full-blown allergy. Therefore, eating gluten is a complete hazard for these individuals. They start to feel sick and can not digest/absorb other nutrients because of their damaged microvilli. How terrible does that sound, a “damaged intestine”? The purpose of the intestine is to absorb nutrients. Imagine trying to eat vegetables and healthy foods all week and having it all become void to your body.

 Gluten-sensitivity or gluten intolerance is when someone just does not “feel” well when they consume gluten. Then, upon personal experimentation (removing gluten from their diet) they start to feel better. Usually have higher energy, better sleep cycles, attentiveness, etc. Overall health is just at it’s highest. — by “they” I mean readers such as The Clothes That Make the Girl and Nom Nom Paleo (my fellow Paleo- bloggers). The Paleo diet (once again, another tie into this blog) eliminates gluten from the diet and see’s similar effects. People… “feel better”. My followers, this applies to you, yes? Personally, two years ago I decided to try this little experiment and eliminate gluten from my diet. Not only did I lose weight (which was the initial goal) but I also just felt soo much better!

Apparently, it was discovered that food allergies might actually have a genetic background, but it usually varies within families. This is true for my family, I am lactose-intolerant, but my entire family can drink whole milk by the gallons. Besides genetic, it could also be a lack of early exposure. One of those, “don’t use it you lose it” moments. If you don’t use the enzymes to digest a certain branch of food products, whether it’s dairy, tree nuts, soy, fish, wheat gluten etc. then you lose the ability to do that and can build an allergy.  

Because food allergies can act as hazards to those that possess them, the HACCP Hazard analysis and critical control points goes through great lengths to conduct hazard analysis and figure out what foods possess substances that can harm us. They do this by, determining critical control points, establishing safety limits, monitoring current hazards, establishing corrective actions, verifying procedures already created and recording/documenting current procedures.  Because the HACCP applies many proactive procedures in managing hazards, I wanted to take the time to break down some of these tools used.

Analyzing hazards is, exactly what it says, looking for the potential hazards associated with foods and try to control these. Well, if they are controllable. These hazards can be anywhere from biological, like microorganisms growing inside or chemical, like toxins that may have seeped into the food via processing, food handling etc There is also a very scary possibility that there could be glass or metal fragments from processing plants that have accidentally gone into your food product. Picture there was a time where we went to a restaurant back home and my mom, who literally is the Sherlock Holmes of food hazards, found 3 rocks in her bean dip (from lack of cleaning) an onion peel and a piece of a silver aluminum from the tongs used in the restaurant. Her luck, right? My poor mom, always the one to have things pop up in her food. But all of these = hazards.

Finding critical control points, is the process of determining the correct temperature, time, environment for cooking food, packaging, storing etc. This is the ability to protect consumers by finding the “threshold” point. Like at what exact temperature is the food considered safe for eating. If you want to know more about food safety due to various temperatures, reference my past post about Raw foods.

Other procedures like establish corrective actions is like assigning discipline for doing something wrong. It's the corrective action to for something that may have been wrong. Then there is also another process to make sure that the overall system (maybe a device that checks temperature or what not) is working correctly. If not, there needs to be some corrective action. Both the detection of problems (analyzing hazards) and establishing corrections is the responsibility of the HACCP.

 Since there are so many process, all under the umbrella of the HACCP there are many steps to solving these processes. The process of developing an HACCP plan is much like reviewing a research paper, or reviewing a new food commodity before it hits the market. First, you need to assemble a team, that team will then have to research the product (or in this case the issue at hand) and describe the food and how it is suppose to be distributed. Then,  there is the act of trying to describe what the purpose of this food product is and how it will be used in the population. Then they develop and verify a presentation/flow diagram to describe the plan at hand.

But all this technicality is great, but what is the purpose if the public can’t follow and feel uneducated in this matter. I wrote about the Prop 65 warning for Starbucks back in week 2  but without the sign out front that says “prop 65 requires us to tell you… blah blah blah” how would you know that Starbucks has traces of acrylamide that acts as a cancer-causing agent. You wouldn’t!  But nowadays there are many channels for the public to glean information. For starters, the internet is a great resource. Some of my favorite websites (where I get all clinical nutrition-nerded out ) are the,, FDA,gov, and just the American Journal of Nutrition. Yeah, some of them can be heavily science baed, but to be honest… the most people friendly/lame-term using resource is the current food guide for Americans, MyPlate.

I use to think it was the publics fault, “they just don’t know”. But now, I start to think, maybe they either 1) don’t want to know or 2) don’t look? We can’t always be spoon fed. If you are interested in the food that you put in your body, whether it be the nutrients it has, or conversely the hazards it has, look it up.  Go online, type it into Google and I guarantee you, it will pop up! It might not be a credible source that, I will give you. However, there will at least be something to get you thinking.

Start taking charge of your health. Get informed about food hazards that can potentially harm you, your family, your pets, etc. The information is all around, but it won’t just seep into your brain. You unfortunately need to know. Just like this blog, what’s the purpose of these posts? Yeah, I’m writing you what I learned, but also… how crucial is education about food safety. No, I’m serious… think about it for a second.

Are you thinking?

You eat food everyday. Honestly, you probably spend majority of your day thinking about food. Even after you just ate breakfast, you’re probably thinking about what you want to eat for lunch, dinner, how to prep your dessert, etc. If food just consumes our culture, don’t you want to know if it can kill you?

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