Home Life & People What Are 'Furans' And Why Are They Appearing In Baby Food?

What Are 'Furans' And Why Are They Appearing In Baby Food?

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Our babies are so special to us so we want to make sure we do everything in our power to protect them and keep them healthy. There are many different baby products out there that are supposed to help us care for, teach and nourish our little bundles of joy. Unfortunately, not all of these products are safe and a lot of them can actually harm our little ones. One of the things we don’t think of as harmful is baby food, we usually trust that the marketing is true and it is good to help out baby grow and develop. However, the EFSA (Europen Food and Safety Authority) has found that some infant foods now contain traces of toxic furans. These furans can cause long-term liver damage along with other medical complications.

So, what are furans? Furans form out of naturally occurring substances in food. These substances include vitamin C, carbohydrates, amino acids, unsaturated fatty acids, and carotenoids. Furans form through certain metabolic processes like cooking and temperature change. The average dietary exposures that were calculated for infants ranged from .14 to .99ug/kg body weight per day. This number can be reduced if the products are cooked and prepared in a different way.

But infants aren’t the only ones who have been exposed to these dangerous furans. In fact, the EFSA also found that adults were exposed to as much as 3.3 ug/kg per day. Many of these furans actually come from coffee, and different preparation methods for coffee can result in different amounts of furan concentrations.

There are various health complications that furans may cause, but the biggest concern is the effect it can have on our liver. Based on some studies that were done by the EFSA, it was concluded that liver damage and liver cancer were the most critical health effects brought about by furan consumption.

More facts about Furans

Below are more facts about furans in our food that were published in the latest assessment done by the EFSA:

During coffee beverage preparation furan concentrations decrease substantially due to a combination of dilution, evaporation and partial extraction. Highest losses of furan during beverage preparation were observed for boiled/Turkish coffee (median loss factor of 11.6), and losses for filter coffees (median loss factor of 4.2) were also found to be higher compared to espresso coffees (median loss factor of 2.8). For instant coffees, the loss of furan during beverage preparation is considered negligible.

The highest exposures to furan were estimated in the youngest population group, i.e. infants. The mean dietary exposures calculated for infants ranged from 0.14 to 0.99 μg/kg bw per day (minimum LB to maximum UB). Regarding the 95th percentile exposures, which refer to highly exposed consumers within a given dietary survey and age class, the highest estimates were also observed for infants ranging from 0.27 to 1.8 μg/kg bw per day (minimum LB to maximum UB).

Ready-to-eat meals for infants and small children are the main contributor to the dietary exposure of infants. For adults, elderly and very elderly, the exposure is mainly driven by coffee. Grains and grain-based products are the most contributing food group for toddlers, other children, and adolescents, and it is also the second largest contributor in all other age classes. Other important contributors to the exposure of most age classes are ready-to-eat soups, and to a smaller extent, cereal-based composite foods.

Overall, the influence of reheating commercially processed foods on furan concentrations is limited and depends on the consumer behavior. Regarding ready-to-eat meals for infants and young children, reheating the meals in a hot water bath (without lid) may reduce the dietary exposure of infants by approximately 15–30% depending on the dietary pattern. This results in an exposure comparable to the exposures in the adult age classes.

In addition, furan can also be formed during home cooking. A scenario based on toasting bread, the process that caused the highest increase in the foods studied, showed that although for some specific subpopulations a significant increase of the exposure was observed the overall outcome of the exposure assessment (including all subpopulations) was not impacted.

[Source/EFSA]

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