Toxins in Food


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Food may go through a lot on its journey to your plate, sometimes in ways that are not beneficial to your health.

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Some things may occur before food is even planted or harvested. For example, crops can be treated with pesticides and fertilizers or transformed through hybridization or genetic engineering.

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Top Ten Toxins We Put in Our Bodies & Toxic foods

And then there are toxic substances that are added to food either intentionally as ingredients or inadvertently as contaminants while food is being processed. While pesticides and genetically engineered foods can be mostly avoided by choosing organic, it can be challenging to avoid toxins added to food during processing and packaging. Researchers recently found almost two hundred chemicals of concern are used in food storage materials in the U. These chemicals are components in plastic wraps and food containers and give them flexibility and strength.

They are also present in containers of small kitchen appliances like mixers, blenders, popcorn poppers, and water filtration pitchers. So, how are these chemicals a concern for your health? So how do you avoid these chemicals in your diet? Several recent studies give some guidance both on ways to avoid them and how hard it can be to do so. In one study, the levels of these chemicals dropped by more than half during the week they ate unprocessed food 6. In another study, volunteers were asked to eat one serving of canned soup daily for five days.

I have really enjoyed reading other posts in this month of unprocessed adventures. Used under Creative Commons License. Go here to enter! Laurel Standley is a scientist with a passion for creating a sustainable, nontoxic world, and is the principal at Clear Current LLC , giving credible guidance for achieving sustainable water use and toxics reduction.

Join my mailing list and get my fun, printable Healthy Breakfast Flowchart - and never have a crummy breakfast again! This interdependence is also how toxins can be moved through the food web. Hundreds of fish are sometimes found dead on beaches. Large numbers of shellfish can suddenly start to die off. People become seriously ill after eating certain shellfish. Deadly toxins are often found in these sick or dead organisms. Where have these toxins come from? Algae are plant-like organisms producers that make their own food by photosynthesis. They are life forms that usually float in water.

They are the base of most food webs in the ocean and freshwater. Algae can range in size from extremely tiny microscopic organisms to giant seaweeds. Very tiny phytoplankton cells a type of microscopic algae can produce potent toxins.


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Phytoplankton is eaten by zooplankton tiny microscopic animals. Zooplankton live in swarms of billions of individual little animals and are eaten along with phytoplankton by many animals from tiny shrimp to the largest of mammals — the blue whale.

1. Introduction

Although the toxin produced by one phytoplankton cell is minuscule, it can accumulate quickly through the food web as each consumer takes in more and more of the toxin. Foods involved in B. The toxin is extremely heat-stable and will withstand cooking. The second type of B. At least two different enterotoxins have been identified, a haemolysin and a non-haemolytic enterotoxin.

Staphylococcal (Staph) Food Poisoning

An intermediate type of food poisoning can occur when enterotoxin is released in the gut, but toxin can also be pre-formed in foods. Symptoms include watery diarrhoea, abdominal pain and occasional vomiting, but recovery typically takes place within 24 hours.


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Foods associated with this form of food poisoning are varied, but include meat and vegetable dishes, soups and sauces. The diarrhoeal enterotoxin of B. The FDA Bacteriological Analytical Manual BAM includes a serology-based microslide gel double diffusion method for detection of the toxin, but this is intended for use with culture filtrates rather than food samples.

Rapid methods for B. These methods are quite sensitive and usually require only a simple extraction step. Reversed passive latex agglutination RPLA methods have also been developed commercially for use with food and culture filtrates. This too requires only a simple extraction procedure before use and provides a result in 24 hours.

Food Poisoning Caused by Bacteria (Food Toxins)

Lateral flow test systems uses monoclonal, rather than polyclonal antibodies for improved specificity and is said to be suitable for the rapid time to result 4. The Gram-positive anaerobic bacterial species Clostridium botulinum is the causative organism for the very severe illness, botulism. Botulism is caused by highly potent neurotoxins, some of the most powerful known natural toxins, which can be pre-formed in food during growth of Cl. There are at least seven different types of Cl. These can be divided into four groups, but only two, Groups I and II, are important in food safety.

Group I strains of Cl. They are widely distributed in nature, being found in a variety of raw foods, and produce highly heat-resistant endospores. Botulinum toxin can cause symptoms at very low concentrations possibly as low as 0. The onset of symptoms typically takes hours, but depends on the amount of toxin ingested and can take much longer. Symptoms include initial diarrhoea and vomiting followed by neurological effects including blurred vision, weakness, and difficulty swallowing, talking and breathing. Foods involved in outbreaks are usually under-preserved meat or fish products, but a range of other foods may be implicated, including vegetables preserved in oil and cheeses.

The toxins are not heat-stable and can be inactivated during cooking.

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They are able to grow at temperatures as low as 3oC. They are widespread in nature, but type E strains are especially common in the marine environment. There has been much concern that these bacteria may produce toxin in refrigerated processed foods without apparent spoilage. The spores of Group II Cl. Group II toxins are thought to be slightly less potent than Group I types, requiring at least 0. But in other respects they differ very little.

Foods involved in outbreaks of Group II botulism include cold-smoked fish and other preserved fish products. Traditional detection and identification methods for botulinum toxins in food samples typically involve time consuming and expensive bioassays. These methods are only suitable for a very few designated laboratories equipped to carry out bioassays using mice under strict containment conditions.

The mouse bioassay takes at least six days to complete. ELISA-based methods have been developed for examining food samples for botulinum toxins. Able to detect toxins at concentrations as low as 0. Recently, concern about the possibility of terrorist attack with botulinum toxins has prompted the development of some commercial test kits, especially in the USA. Most of these are lateral flow immunoassay devices designed principally for bio-defence applications.

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