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by Environmental Nutrition

It didn't take long for the microwave oven to become a must-have home kitchen appliance, as well as an expected fixture anywhere food is prepared--restaurants, break rooms, dorm rooms, hotels, and recreation rooms. Yet, a reputation for "nuking" food has cast a dark shadow on microwave ovens.

While health experts and organizations, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, stand behind the safety of these appliances, it's important to draw the line between myth and fact when it comes to health and safety concerns.

How Microwave Ovens Work

Microwave ovens convert electricity into microwaves--a type of electromagnetic radiation--that are reflected inside the ovens' metal interior, and are absorbed by food. The microwaves cause water in the food to vibrate, which produces the heat that cooks the food.

Contrary to the belief that microwaves cook from the inside out, they actually heat the outer layers, which transfer heat to the inner portions. Most of us know from experience that microwaved foods are not cooked evenly. Cold and hot pockets are a hallmark of microwave ovens.

Microwave Oven Safety Concerns

Radiation emissions have been a big concern for consumers. However, the FDA regulates the amount of emissions microwaves can emit over an oven's lifetime, to a level established as safe. As an additional precaution, the FDA requires two systems of backup security and monitoring to shut down the microwave if a system dysfunctions or a door opens while in use.

The FDA suggests that consumers stand away from a microwave when it's in use to significantly reduce microwave radiation exposure, and never to operate a microwave if the door or hinges are bent, damaged or improperly sealed.

Compared with other types of cooking, microwaves use less energy and have been shown in some studies to retain food nutrients better. As long as foods are adequately cooked, warmed, or cooled enough before they're consumed, food safety is a non-issue. So, continue to enjoy the convenience of this 20th century timesaver, but do so wisely and safely.

Safe Microwave Oven User Guide

1. Use microwave-safe containers only to prevent chemicals from leaching into food. Glass and ceramics are best.

2. Don't heat food or liquids in plastics. Avoid toxins in plastics by removing frozen meals from plastic containers and replacing plastic wraps with a glass lid or waxed paper.

3. Heat liquids only to boiling to avoid scalding by an overheating explosion.




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Article: Copyright © 2013, Tribune Media Services Inc.

"To Nuke or Not to Nuke? Microwave Oven Facts"


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