Potential food contaminants and associated health risks.

Authors: Sharda Shah PESHIN, Shyam Bala LALL, Suresh Kumar GUPTA


The potential toxicants in food are derived from natural or industrial sources.
Compounds like lectins and glycoalkaloids that are toxic to man are naturally
present in some vegetables like potatoes or legumes. A wide variety of marine
toxins mostly produced by dinoflagellates occurring secondarily in molluscs and
mussels are usually ingested by human beings causing poisoning. On the other
hand, toxic compounds find their way into food during manufacture, storage, or
transportation. These include largely the industrial contaminants, persistent
organic pollutants (POP), pesticides, heavy metals, and toxins of fungal and
bacterial origin. Further, toxic compounds like higher alcohols may be produced
as byproducts during processing. Migration of compounds from packaging materials
into packaged food like contamination with lead from solder in certain metal cans
is well known. Additives (emulsifiers, preservatives, and antioxidants) could
also influence the quality of foods. Solvent residues may find their way into
food as a result of their use in extraction processes like the use of
trichloroethylene and methylene chloride in decaffeination of coffee. In
addition, poor hygiene, storage, and preparation may also lead to food
contamination by various microbes and ova or cysts of nematodes. The problem of
food contamination can be overcome to a great extent by regular surveillance and
monitoring programmes and strict implementation of food and adulteration act. In
the present review some of these aspects of food contamination have been
discussed in detail.

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