Food & DrinkNon-alcoholic beer, mold and cancer and eating dog or...

Non-alcoholic beer, mold and cancer and eating dog or cat food. The 18th office of Maldita Alimentación arrives


First Friday of the month, December has just started, and the Maldita Alimentacion office is now available on your screen. If you have ever wondered how alcohol is ‘removed’ from beer ‘without’ and 0.0; If it has crossed your mind to put your cat’s food in your mouth or if you have considered what dangers certain mold toxins can cause to your health, you are in the right place.

How do you get ‘without’ and ‘0,0’ beer?

One of the questions that you have asked us for this, our delicious monthly consultation, has been what or what the technological process necessary to obtain ‘without’ and 0.0 alcohol beers consists of.

As Gemma del Cano explained on Twitter, it is important to remember that neither of these two alternatives is completely free of alcohol. On the one hand, 0.0 beer can have 0.04% of this substance. In fact, if the figure increases by only one hundredth (up to 0.05%), the packaging must reflect that its content has 0.1% alcohol (as you can see, it is also rounded up on food labels, like established by law). And in the case of the so-called ‘without’ beer, the amount of alcohol is greater: between 0.9 and 1%.

In any case, since the answer is closely related to the production process of the beer itself, let’s start here to also explain at what point it is decided what amount of alcohol the drink will contain.

First, the barley grains are soaked, the most common cereal in beer recipes. Thanks to this, starch, one of the macromolecules that are part of barley, is ‘broken’ into simple sugars. This step is essential since, while complete starch is not fermentable, simple sugars are. Once at this point, the grain is dried and roasted and crushed. This is when we talk about malt (the barley grain that has been soaked, dried, roasted and crushed).

Afterwards, the malt is reintroduced into water and heated again, so that more simple sugars are obtained and, together with them, the relevant aromas. Once the liquid with the grain is filtered, it is poured into a boiler in which another of the most important ingredients of beer is added and which, most likely, you have heard of: hops. “The resin that this flower contains gives the beer a bitter taste, which serves to offset the sweetness of the malt. It also contains essential oils that provide this drink with a wide variety of aromas, ”says Miguel Angel Luruena, a food technologist, on his blog.

We return to ours. By boiling the mixture of the liquid obtained by soaking and filtering the barley and the hops, several things are achieved: obtaining the aromas we are looking for from the flower, improving the color of the mixture and eliminating certain proteins that do not interest us in the task, since that could cloud the final product. Then it cools down.

The result is introduced into a fermenter which, in the words of Luruena, is a tank in which we can control certain parameters, such as temperature. It is then that other important players in beer production play their role: yeasts (usually Saccharomyces cerevisiae). By fermenting the simple sugars, they obtain ethanol (ethyl alcohol), carbon dioxide and other compounds that are also important in the final characteristics of the smell and taste of the beer.

“The beer obtained after fermentation undergoes a maturation process in the cellar and, if necessary, a subsequent clarification to reduce its turbidity. Finally, its carbon dioxide content is adjusted and it is bottled”, concludes Luruena. So far the how to make beer with alcohol. What about the ‘without’ or the ‘0,0’? We can obtain them by intervening both during and at the end of the process.

In the first case, as Mario Sanchez, a food technologist, explains, we can choose to add less malt and more water, ferment with other species of yeast or lower the temperature, so that the activity of the latter is reduced and, therefore, Therefore, so does the alcoholic content that these produce from the sugars.

In the second case, to eliminate the alcohol once we have the beer ready, as Sanchez advances, the most frequent and effective techniques are also usually more expensive. “Physical treatments are used, mainly heat. As ethanol evaporates at 78ºC and water at 100ºC, we take advantage of this difference to evaporate the alcohol from the beer through heat”, points out the expert. However, this technique brings with it some ‘cons’. One of them is that “it is very difficult to do this [eliminate alcohol] without losing other components responsible for the aroma and flavor of beer, volatile compounds along the way.” For this reason, this technique is rarely used today.

Luruena adds, regarding physical treatments, which present a series of advantages over the former. Among them, “the possibility of obtaining beer with a much lower alcohol concentration (in most cases)”. However, he continues, “they require the use of specialized machinery, which implies much higher costs than in the case of the methods of the first group”. You can read much more information about the different processes on Luruena’s blog.

To what extent is it true that mold in a food causes cancer?

A human or human asked via Twitter to what extent is it true that the mold that grows on food can ‘give’ cancer. He accompanied his query with an article from the health section of 20 Minutes about mold on fruit. The quick answer is that this is indeed confirmed “to the point” that some compounds in these mushrooms are known to be carcinogenic and/or dangerous to human health. Therefore, it is best that, when we find mold on food, we throw it away directly.

Mold (which are really filamentous fungi) in foods such as fruits, cereals or cheeses is an indication of the presence of mycotoxins, which are toxic compounds produced naturally by various types of fungi, according to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), acronym in English).

These mycotoxins can cause adverse health effects in humans and animals, from gastrointestinal and renal disorders to acute toxicity, immunodeficiency and cancer.

It is also known that they enter the food chain as a consequence of the infection of crops before or after harvest. Jessica Gil, professor of Microbiology at the Complutense University of Madrid, explains in The Conversation that more than 400 mycotoxins produced by filamentous fungi are currently known, although “there are only a dozen that are considered relevant due to their regular presence in food and the gravity of diseases they can cause.

The Spanish Agency for Food Safety and Nutrition (AESAN) has a list on its website with mycotoxins of interest to public health. The EFSA, for its part, highlights aflatoxins, ochratoxin A and toxins of the Fusarium genus. The first two are included in the list of carcinogenic agents of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is the standardized tool to check whether a substance can cause cancer, according to the available scientific evidence. Aflatoxins are in category 1, ‘carcinogenic to humans’ and ochratoxin A in group 2B, ‘possibly carcinogenic to humans’.

This does not mean that if you consume a food contaminated by one of these mycotoxins you will, yes or yes, develop cancer. Rather, what happens is that these compounds accumulate in the body and produce chronic effects. Gil gives the example of aflatoxin B1, “the most potent natural carcinogen that exists, and associated with the development of liver cancer.”

Another problem with mycotoxins is that “they are very stable and withstand processing and cooking temperatures,” explains Beatriz Robles, food technology and nutritionist.

There are other risks related to food that can be avoided by cooking above certain temperatures, freezing food or washing it, but in the case of mycotoxins it is best to discard the product directly. The reason is that the hyphae (the filaments that form the fungus, the mold) are invisible to the human eye and it is unknown until what part of the food they arrive.

Ultimately, scientific evidence acknowledges the existence of mycotoxins that can cause cancer and other serious adverse health effects in some contaminated foods. We have an article where we explain what foods are safe to eat if we get rid of the moldy part but, when in doubt, it is best to throw it away entirely.

Can eating dog or cat food be an inadvisable practice?

Dogs and cats show great interest in human food but, fortunately, the opposite is not usually the case (with some exceptions). Even so, you have asked us if the consumption of food intended for these pets can be harmful to humans. The short answer is that, although in the long term it is negative, since the different species have different nutritional needs (which would not be met with an exclusive diet with dog or cat food); in the short term and priori it does not have to be a food safety problem.

In legal terms, pet food covers different types of feed, which are defined as “any substance or product, including additives, intended for oral feeding of animals, whether it has been fully or partially processed or not.” ”. Therefore, they are not considered food suitable for human consumption and are subject to different rules, as explained to by Beatriz Robles, food technology, dietitian-nutritionist and cursed who has lent us her superpowers.

“Each species has its own needs, including nutritional ones. Sanitary controls for the animal feed industry are not the same as those for products that reach supermarkets for people. The demands are much more lax and the requirements to be able to market the product are lower ”, she clarifies to Mar Puig, a veterinary assistant, canine educator and cursed who has lent us her superpowers.

“Nutritionally [the feed] are formulated to meet the requirements of animals that have different needs from ours, so regular consumption could pose a risk due to an excessive intake of certain micronutrients such as vitamin K, or nutritional deficiencies, if they are our only source of food”, says Robles. The dietitian-nutritionist points out that both the ingredients of these products and their nutritional composition differ from foods intended for human consumption and include others that, due to their characteristics, are not allowed for their commercialization for human consumption, such as flour feathers.

The composition labels indicate that many of these products are made from meat or fish by-products that, in general, “usually come from waste from the meat industry”, that is, they are usually “parts of the animals that are not considered fit for human consumption” such as feathers, beaks, hooves, skin…

“The origin of the protein is of such low quality that the body does not take advantage of it through absorption,” explains Puig. However, there are also options “made with fresh, high-quality products” that guarantee the correct absorption and use of nutrients.

However, as Robles adds, the regulations indicate that the feed that is marketed must be safe and have no adverse effects on the environment or animals.

For this reason, sporadic consumption “would not be dangerous” in the sense that “it is unlikely that they would cause us acute poisoning by microorganisms or their toxins” since, “legally, hygienic criteria are also established”, as Beatriz Robles points out. “That humans consume dog or cat food occasionally or sporadically does not have to pose any health problem, but we must take into account the quality of the product” as well as its long-term consequences, concludes Puig.

Are there those who are not recommended to drink lime blossom?

Last October we published an article in which we explained why you have to be careful with the consumption of herbal teas during pregnancy. The reason for this precaution is the lack of data and scientific evidence to confirm that they are safe drinks for pregnancy and lactation. Hence the recommendation to prioritize caution and avoid its consumption.

Inspired by this question, you have asked us if there are people who are not recommended to drink lime blossom, an infusion made with flowers of different species of the Tilia genus. The answer is similar: since it is an infusion on which it has not been established whether or not it is safe for pregnant women, lactating women and children under four years of age, its use in these people is not recommended, due to the precautionary principle. We tell you in depth.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has a committee for herbal medicinal products. The organ collects scientific evidence on these substances, their effects on the body and their possible interaction with drugs. Thus, national entities have standardized information on these products, which are made with plants that have active principles —with the capacity to generate changes in the body— and, therefore, require surveillance to confirm that they are safe.

Said committee drafted an evaluation report where it was recognized that linden infusions made with different floral species of the Tilia genus (specifically, Tilia cordata Miller, Tilia platyphyllos Scop., Tilia x vulgaris Heyne and their combinations) are used to alleviate symptoms of the common cold and mild nervous tension. The report indicates that there is in vitro (laboratory), in vivo (in animals), and empirical evidence to support these uses; although he stresses that there is a lack of controlled clinical trials to corroborate such data.

However, this same report emphasizes that there is insufficient information on the traditional use of this infusion in pregnant and lactating women, so it is recommended, in accordance with general medical practice, that it not be used in these people. In the same way, there are no data on the traditional use of lime blossom in children under four years of age, hence their consumption is not advised.

On the other hand, this report also acknowledges that there are no studies on the effect of linden on driving or using heavy machinery. In this case there is no notice for it not to be consumed, simply that there is a lack of evidence. It is also important to mention that there are people who have a hypersensitivity to lime blossom, to whom —obviously— its use is not recommended either.

Before saying goodbye…

We remind you once again: we are not doctors, we are journalists. You can count on us for everything that is in our power, of course! But if what you need is a specific diagnosis and/or you have specific medical questions, the best option will be to go to a health professional who will study the case and recommend the most appropriate solution or treatment. Thanks for reading and have a good weekend!

In this article they have collaborated with their superpowers Ursula Garcia-Carpintero, an expert biologist in Nutrition and Phytotherapy; Beatriz Robles, food technology and dietitian-nutritionist, and Mar Puig, veterinary assistant and canine educator.

Thanks to your superpowers, knowledge and experience we can fight more and better against lies. The community is essential to stop misinformation. Help us in this battle: send us the hoaxes that reach you through our WhatsApp service, lend us your superpowers, spread our denials and become an Ambassador.

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