German Study Finds High Levels of Aluminum in Foods

Foods that are kept warm in uncoated aluminum dishes are later found to contain aluminum, according to a project undertaken by researchers at the Germany’s Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR).

As part of their experiments, they prepared sour food like sauerkraut juice, applesauce, and tomato passata according to the cook-and-chill process. The foods were first cooked and then cooled to 4 degrees Celsius within 90 minutes. The process keeps the food consumable for up to four days. Shortly before it is served, the food is warmed in aluminum trays. But that’s the point at which the aluminum transitions into the food.

In their Opinion of May 29, 2017 (German only), the BfR authors note that the permissible release level of 5 milligrams of aluminum per kilogram of food (set by the Council of Europe) was more than quadrupled in all experiments. In a Press Release, BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel expressed its concerns about the results, particularly because the cook-and-chill process is used to prepare foods in kindergartens, schools, hospitals, and residences for seniors, meaning that it affects sensitive groups like small children and senior citizens.

In principle, aluminum compounds are found naturally in potable water and many unprocessed food items like fruits and vegetables. Other sources of aluminum include cooking utensils made with the metal, aluminum foil, and cosmetics. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has set the tolerable weekly intake (TWI) at 1 milligram of aluminum per kilogram of body weight. The EFSA also estimates that most humans have already exceeded the TWI. Based on the measurements of the current study, an adult takes in about 5 milligrams of aluminum per kilogram of body weight every week if that person consumes 200 grams of sour food from uncoated aluminum dishes every day.

Of course, the kidneys do expel most of the ingested aluminum. But when kidney disease is involved or when foods with a high concentration of aluminum are consumed, the metal can accumulate over a lifetime in the lungs and skeleton. Today we know that aluminum damages the nervous system and can harm reproduction. According to a British Study, aluminum can also contribute to Alzheimer’s disease.

So far, the EU has not issued any binding threshold values for materials that come into contact with food. However, the Nordic Council of Ministers issued Guidelines in 2015.

The BfR plans to continue its studies and examine foods that contain salt. Those with questions about aluminum can view the comprehensive list of FAQ prepared by the BfR.

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