There are a few beverages that are so rarely served in restaurants that whenever I see them, I will surely order them. One is kedongdong juice and another is freshly squeezed sugar cane juice. One day, while ordering the latter, an elderly lady I was having dinner with stopped me and told me to get something else.
The concerned lady claimed that bundles of sugar cane that are left standing on the floor could absorb dirty water, urine and detergent. Another dinner companion too heard of this through a forwarded email. I made a simple search and found the exact warning (which is believed to be a hoax).
The question is: how true is it that sugar cane water truly contaminated with these toxic substances? I found the answer from “Eat Well, Live Well”, a book written by Chia Joo Suan, a food chemist base in Malaysia.
Raw fruit juices has always been a safety issue
First of all, all types of raw fruit juices, not just sugar cane, has always been a safety issue. Raw juices can be contaminated through the equipments used, how fruits are stored and the cleanliness of the restaurant.
Sugar cane is easier to be contaminated
Sugar cane is high in sugar and low in fruit acid, hence a good medium for microbes to grow. Fruits such as pineapples, limes or apples contains higher amount of fruice acid which helps slow down microbial growth. Hence it is very important to keep sugar cane chilled as it is easier to be contaminated when expose at room temperature for long hours.
Sugar cane skin is like a shield
The skin of the sugar cane is like a shield that prevents microbial growth. It is best that that the skin is not removed until it is ready to be juiced.
Sugar cane stalk does not absorb water from the floor
The ‘warning’ seems to describe sugar cane as though it’s a sponge which soak up water. However, according to food chemist, Chia Soo Suan, sugar cane stalk would not absorb dirty water from the floor. However, it is unhygienic to to leave stalks of sugar cane standing on the floor and moist environment does encourage growth of microorganism.
How to make sure that sugar cane water is safe to drink
As raw juices will always pose a safety threat, it is safest to drinks that had been heated. Instead of freshly squeeze sugar cane juice, choose boiled sugar cane water. Only buy freshly squeezed sugar cane juice from restaurant with high-level of cleanliness and which keep their juices chilled.
Have you been avoiding sugar cane water? With these information you can make an informed choice and enjoy the delicious drink!
Eat Well, Live Well addresses popular natural remedies and recipes from Malaysia’s different communities, and offers scientific studies to show that these may not be mere old wives’ tales, after all. From making children grow taller by boiling peanut root with chicken in soup to advice on abstaining from chicken to help treat a bad cough, Chia clarifies truths and debunks the myths behind seemingly ambiguous traditional recipes for good health.
Eat Well, Live Well is for anyone with an interest in food safety and nutrition and who wants to know more about food ingredients, additives, toxins and nutrients. Those who are health conscious and yearn for a healthier life and well-being will also find this book most useful. Chia is a food chemist who advocates safe eating habits for a healthy life.