Saturday, January 12, 2013

Toxic Substances in Sugar

Toxic Substances in Sugar – how white and brown sugars are processed

There are three main steps in sugar refining process – 1. Getting sugar sap from sugar cane or sugar beet, 2. Refining, and 3. Crystallizing. First, sugar cane is harvested and sap is correct from its stem. This sap is acidic so calcium hydroxide is added to neutralize acidity. At the same time sap is strained once to start concentration process. When crystallization starts from concentrated sap, it goes into centrifuge machine which separates sugar power. This is raw sugar. 

The color of raw sugar is similar to light brown sugar, but nutritionally, it is not same as light brown sugar, but better because it retains vitamins and minerals present in raw cane sugar. In order to make white or brown sugar, this raw sugar is further refined. The further refining process start with melting raw sugar back into water, then filter through series of white mud, activated carbon, diatomite, ion exchange chromatograpy, etc., then start concentration process in low pressure. Original sugar cane has 10-15% of sugar concentration and rest of it is water, fiber, enzyme, vitamin, and minerals. Refined sugar has 99.5% sucrose and 0.5% water. 

During ion exchange chromatography refinery process, many different chemicals are used for refining and bleaching sugar. Some of these chemicals are styrene, divinylacetylene benzol, benzol peroxide, polyvinyl alcohol, bentonite, concentrated sulfuric acid, methacrylic acid, sodium hydroxide, methyl chloride, diethylenetriamine (DETA) etc. 

These substances are mainly for industrial use. For example, polyvinyl alcohol is used in covering light bulb to make color light. Styrene is used for coating materials. These chemicals used in ion exchange chromatography are regarded as lethal poison. Sodium hydroxide is used in making soap and considered lethal toxin. When these are used to bleach sugar, it cannot be said that these chemicals are not leaking from ion exchange chromatograpy process. 

Bentonite is used in this process, which is used to suck off any nutritious protein out of raw sugar. Bentonite adsorbs fairly large amounts of protein molecules from liquid solutions. It is useful not only in the sugar refining process, but also in winemaking, because bentonite remove excessive protein from white wines. Due to proteins denature in wine, if bentonite is not used, many or most white wines would have clouds or hazes when exposed to warmer temperatures. It is used in both red and white wines to make them clearer. 

The sugar refining industry often uses bone char (calcinated animal bones) for decolorizing. About 25% of sugar produced in the U.S. is processed using animal bone char as a filter.

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