A team of food scientists from Technische University Berlin found that using high pressure thermal sterilization (HPTS) instead of conventional thermal processing reduces the furan in baby food by as much as 96%. Their findings and recommendations for scaling up HPTS were featured in this month’s Food Science.
In 2004, FDA scientists discovered furan in an unexpected number of foods, including jars of baby food. Furan forms as a result of heat processing techniques that are standard when preparing foods for cans and jars.
Furan is listed in the Department of Health and Human Services' Report on Carcinogens and is considered possibly carcinogenic to humans by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). However, the furans present are considered far below the U.S. Food and Drug Administration standards for safety.
As the scientists write in the “practical application” section of the abstract, “Since the consumer groups are babies and infants, the reduction of harmful substances in their daily diet is an extra benefit.” Parents would likely feel better if they have the option of feeding their babies food that is nearly free of potentially harmful substances, even if what is already available is deemed safe. For that reason, it is probably worthwhile for brands like Gerber and Beech-Nut to look into HPTS. Any reassurance of safety is a good selling point for parents.