The restaurants' use of microwave ovens to reheat food has drawn criticism from some members of the community. References to microwave ovens as "nukes" indicate that some of the public associate them with nuclear reactors. Much of the criticism seems to be baseless or deep suspicion arising from the apparent mystique of microwave action.
The specific nutritional components resulting from microwave cooking will vary from those cooking procedures in which gas flame is used; and those cooked on gas will vary from those cooked on electrical coils or on wood fire. Each type of heating will produce its own specific 'finger print' of cooked components because the nature and intensity of the heat is different. All types of cooking can be termed as a process of de-naturation. De-naturation is irreversible for most biological material at just 56 degrees Centigrade. Many of the components within vegetable sources are indigestible by human metabolism unless they are broken down into what could be termed 'un-natural' fragments, by heat or through fermentation by other organisms - such as tempeh, sauerkraut, olives etc. There is no dispute that some of these fragments may be unusual enough that the prevailing human metabolism must learn to process and use them. This would have happened when humans first began to eat food cooked on electric stoves or for that matter when they started to cook food for the first time ever. Indeed, any time we eat something totally new - such as a newly imported fruit - there may be components there that our bodies will have to adjust to. Often we experience something new much more appreciatively the second or third time we eat it because of this. Something which we 'acquire a taste' for is another example.
The question then is whether any of these intrinsically microwave generated components are harmful. There does not seem to be any evidence that microwaves cause the production of any more harmful components than do other cooking methods. Some of the confusion appears to exist amongst 'anti-microwavers' due to their connotation of microwave radiation being wrongly equated to high-energy radiation such as that from radioactive materials like cobalt 60. In the latter case it is known that exposed food does produce so called radiolytic products which can in some cases be dangerous if consumed. Microwaves however do not appear to have the energy to produce the true radiolytic components.
Possibly more significant areas of challenge to microwave ovens concern the matters of their leakage, their magnetic field effect upon individuals, and the effects of exposure resulting from accidental opening while the oven is operating. A short burst of exposure is possible in the latter case because the safety mechanism preventing operation whilewhilethe door is open does not switch off the microwaves as quickly as the door can be opened and body parts exposed. Safety measures for this condition are to inform users of microwave ovens to always check whether the oven is operating and to always pause their operation before opening the door. There is evidence that eyes are particularly susceptible to damage from exposure. An extra precautionary measure can be to install the oven on a bench below eye level to reduce the intensity of accidental exposure.
The issue of microwave leakage is largely the concern of the national safety standards authority and the manufacturer. Leakage detectors have been available through the C.S.I.R.O. The restaurant microwave ovens were periodically tested with one of these detectors but no leakage was detected.
Magnetic fields generated by microwave ovens is of concern to some people. Television sets, fluorescent lights, car generators, electrical power lines etc. can all have their influences on biological life forms within their vicinity, according to their time of exposure and in proportion to the particular susceptibility of the individual. The industrialised world is 'bathed' in electro magnetic fields of various kinds and some people are affected adversely by them. Microwave oven fields are regarded as no more severe than the regular television set and they are operational for significantly less time than TV. sets.
The more positive aspects of microwave ovens are their efficiency factors. Estimates indicate that over all 30-40% less power is consumed when using microwaves instead of the more conventional means for cooking. This includes less detergent for washing fewer utensils, less hot water and more efficient heating of food.
All cooking is a process of de-naturation. Because microwaves heat the food more evenly, there is significantly less de-naturation of food than by using convection or conduction heating in conventional systems, where charring and burning occurs more readily - for example at the base of the pot. Just like some people have adverse sensitivity to gluten or garlic, or tahini and so on, there is no doubt that some people will have adverse sensitivity to certain components resulting from microwave heating. If a wide enough study was done there would probably be as many people detected with sensitivity problems to food components resulting from all types of heating, storing and processing. If people feel strongly concerned about microwaved food, it could be their immune system trying to warn them of their sensitivity, or it could be another case of dis-information.
Microwave ovens have been confined only to re-heating certain sauces such as curries in the restaurants. This has provided an efficient means of serving food with optimal freshness instead of having the food sitting hot for hours and becoming completely over cooked during restaurant hours and also not re-useable the next day.
The opinion of the author is that microwave heated food does not appear to be detrimental to health for the vast majority of people. Microwave ovens are a significantly more efficient and environmentally less polluting means of food preparation
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