Natural Aluminum in Food

Even though concentrations of aluminum in soil are high (3-10%), most food plants contain little aluminum. Reports describe diverse levels in different foods and reported values vary for similar foods. Much of this variation results from either the inadequate removal of soil and/or contamination of foods with soil prior to analysis or the use of poor analytical techniques. A selection of results for plant foods is given in Table 2. This shows that most uncooked plant foods contain <5 mgg-1. However, reported concentrations in herbs and spices are higher due to their dehydrated state and their content of aluminum-containing grinding materials.

The concentration of natural aluminum in animal-derived foods is influenced by the low concentration of aluminum in animal feeds, the poor biological uptake of 'food aluminum' by food animals, and the limited ability of body aluminum to transfer to products such as eggs and milk. Consequently, most animal-based foods contain <1 mgg-1 of aluminum (Table 3).

Of the remaining miscellaneous foods in common usage, few contain significant aluminum. Beer stored in aluminum cans for up to 1 year contains <29 p.gcm~3 and the maximum level recorded in beverages within aluminum cans is 1.5 mg per 375-cm3 can. Tea, which when dry contains large quantities of aluminum (1.28mgg-1), contains relatively little when steeped (2.8 mgcm~3). For comparison, brewed coffee contains less than 0.4 mg cm~3.

The aluminum concentration of acidic foods may be increased by cooking in aluminum vessels. In one study the increment to the aluminum content of an average-sized serving of rhubarb was 25 mg. Onions boiled in aluminum saucepans similarly accumulate the metal. In contrast, the cooking of nonacidic food products in aluminum utensils has little effect on their aluminum content. Similarly, the use of aluminum foil for wrapping foods adds little to their metal content.

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