The natural food label does not necessarily imply better or healthier, in some cases being truly harmful to the body.
During the last years (especially the last 4-5 years), the fashions of " without " (without lactose, without gluten), " natural " or " ecological " have only multiplied and confused the general population. The reality is that, luckily, we are becoming more aware to eat better. However, there are not a few companies that have taken advantage of this pull of the search for health at any cost at the cost of our ignorance about nutritional issues.
Raw milk and food infections
Although milk and dairy products in general have abundant nutritional benefits, the best known being the calcium contribution they entail (although there are other foods rich in calcium to take into account), it is a mistake to think that raw milk or unprocessed is better or healthier. In fact, as the United States Foods & Drugs Administration well explains, unpasteurized milk can cause infections by various microorganisms such as Escherichia coli, Salmonella or Listeria among other. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, unpasteurized milk is up to 150 times more likely to cause foodborne infections than pasteurized milk or dairy products.
The processing, in this case the pasteurization of the milk, consists of heating it to a certain temperature for a set time, with the aim of destroying the possible bacteria contained in said milk. Interestingly, this process is not something "modern", since it has been used since 1864, when Louis Pasteur created it.
On a nutritional level, pasteurization of milk does not diminish its nutritional quality. Likewise, it should be noted that it is a myth that this process increases lactose intolerances, or that it is sufficient to pasteurize the milk to avoid foodborne infections: in addition to pasteurization, the milk must be kept refrigerated, especially after opening.
Home canning and Clostridium botulinum infection
Although the fact of preparing homemade preserves is not a bad idea as such, it can be dangerous due to a certain type of bacteria: Clostridium botulinum, responsible for botulism.
This type of bacteria acts in a similar way to the one that causes tetanus, since it is the toxin produced by the same bacteria that is responsible for the disease. This microorganism lives in the soil and produces spores, in addition to being able to produce different toxins, which are very resistant to sterilization treatments. If the disease is contracted, body paralysis occurs, which can be mild or very serious, even being fatal. Among the first symptoms that this bacterium produces are vertigo, weakness and the sensation of body paralysis after 12-36 hours of consuming poorly prepared canned food (usually due to not having carried out the process correctly, or not having used the appropriate temperatures to the same).
As stated by the Organization of Consumers and Users (OCU), the most advisable thing to avoid botulism if you decide to prepare home preserves is to take extreme hygiene, carefully select the materials and wash them correctly (including both food and packaging, avoiding reuse), not fill the jars to the brim, boil said jars for at least 10 minutes, distribute the acid and salt correctly in the jars, and if they decide to preserve vegetables, boil them in water and vinegar.
Hunters and meat parasites
On the other hand, we have game pieces, where the wild boar stands out as an infectious host. In this case, the parasite Trichinella spiralis is the parasite that causes the disease called trichinosis, which is produced by the consumption of this type of previously unprocessed meat.
Despite the fact that today there is a protocol prior to the consumption of game meat, in recent years the cases of trichinosis have skyrocketed in our country, highlighting Catalonia as published by El País in 2016.
As Inma Cervós, deputy director of Health Protection, recalled on that occasion, the only way to kill the parasite is to cook the meat at more than 77ºC for half an hour, since freezing the meat is useless to eliminate it. In any case, it is not advisable to carry out said processing at home, and the meat must be controlled and analyzed by a veterinarian prior to consumption.
Raw fish and anisakiasis
Fish is the second cause of food poisoning in our country, according to the OCU. Among these intoxications, infestations by the anisakis parasite stand out in recent years, a type of microorganism that has become popular simultaneously with the increase in sushi consumption. In fact, recently a Portuguese individual suffered sushi anisakiasis in his meat.
To avoid anisakis infection, raw fish must be subjected to a specific freezing process at -20ºC or higher for a minimum of 5 days to ensure that the anisakis larvae have died. Theoretically, any establishment that sells sushi or any preparation based on raw fish must comply with these regulations, but there are also those who try to carry out the process at home, where it is possible to carry out the freezing process if you have the appropriate methods.
What should not be done, under any circumstances, is to consume raw fish not previously processed.
Dangerous natural foods, mushrooms and the death fungus
Finally, among the unprocessed natural foods that we must be careful with are mushrooms and fungi in general. In our country, it is typical to collect mushrooms in the early autumn, and there are many species of mushrooms that our country has.
The problem in this case is not the lack of processing of the food itself, but thinking (wrongly) that any natural food will be healthy or safe. Among the various types of mushrooms that our country has is a called Amanita phalloides, better known as " death fungus ", a type of mushroom that can be lethal after consuming only 20 grams of it. In fact, it was recently learned that in the United States there were 14 people poisoned by this mushroom last year 2016.
As well informed by those responsible for that report, in cases like this the recommendation is that any fungus collected in the wild be evaluated by an expert mycologist, since Amanita phalloides is easily confused with other edible mushrooms and suffer poisoning by it is relatively easy.
As you have seen, what is homemade and natural is always necessarily healthier or better for health.
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