Experts caution that the way cooking oil is applied to food may expose individuals to the risk of cancer and other heart-related ailments. Mr. Joseph Ssemujju, an oncology nutritionist at the Uganda Cancer Institute, highlights concerns about common practices involving heating cooking oil, citing the potential dangers when exposed to high temperatures.
He emphasizes that the traditional method of pouring oil into a saucepan and heating it before adding ingredients, a widely practiced approach in Uganda, contributes to the issue. Ssemujju suggests an alternative method of simply pouring the oil directly onto the food and allowing it to boil, asserting that this method is safer.
Professor Archileo Kaaya from Makerere University’s Department of Food Technology and Human Nutrition explains that heating cooking oils can lead to the degradation of carcinogenic components, posing a potential risk of cancer. Repeatedly heated cooking oils produce byproducts containing substances known to be carcinogenic, mutagenic, and tumorigenic.
Moreover, Mr. Ssemujju points out that direct heating of oils also results in the degradation of heat-sensitive nutrients such as Vitamin C and antioxidants, which are crucial for the body’s ability to resist the effects of attacks on cells.
In a related development, research from Makerere University reveals that deep-fried foods, including fish, chicken, sausages, and chips sold on the streets of Kampala, pose risks of cancer and heart diseases. The study indicates that most of these fried foods are prepared using recycled cooking oil, which, when recycled at high temperatures, can lead to adverse health outcomes.
The researchers note that chronic consumption of recycled oil is linked to an increase in blood pressure, potentially resulting from the generation of free radicals and reduced levels of vitamins and antioxidants. The quality of oil deteriorates during deep frying, with a higher free fatty acid content present in such oil.
Complications associated with long-term consumption of foods fried in recycled cooking oil include cardiovascular diseases, fatty material deposition on artery walls, and increased levels of “bad” cholesterol. The study warns that these health risks are further compounded by factors such as prolonged heating of oil, the use of improper cooking utensils, and inadequate food handling practices by street processors.
Despite awareness among street food processors about the risks associated with recycled cooking oil, financial considerations often take precedence over food safety. The study found that a significant percentage of processors recycled oil multiple times daily, emphasizing the need for improved awareness and regulatory measures.