Many people not aware of natural toxins in their foods

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Many people are aware of the chemical residues and contaminants like microplastics that can be found in our food. What is less known, however, is that our meals often contain natural toxins.

These toxins are chemical compounds that plants produce to protect themselves from insects and microorganisms. Foods such as beans and potatoes are common examples where these natural toxins can pose health risks.

A recent survey conducted by the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) shed light on public awareness regarding these natural toxins. Surprisingly, only about 47% of the participants were aware of these plant-based toxins.

Moreover, while synthetic contaminants such as residues from plant protection products and other contaminants like heavy metals concern 63% and 62% of respondents respectively, only 27% expressed concern about natural toxins.

Professor Andreas Hensel, President of the BfR, highlighted a key insight from the survey: natural risks are often underestimated by the public, whereas synthetic ones are overemphasized. This insight points to a significant gap in public understanding and perception of food safety.

The survey also explored the frequency of consumption of raw plant-based foods, which are often sources of natural toxins. About 34% of respondents consume these foods frequently, 45% occasionally or rarely, and 19% very rarely or not at all.

When asked to name foods containing natural toxins without any prompts, 15% of the respondents mentioned potatoes first. This was followed by tomatoes and raw beans, each cited by 9%, and mushrooms by 5%.

Despite the prevalence of these foods in diets, more than half of the respondents (53%) felt that they were poorly informed about plant toxins, with only a small fraction (8%) feeling well informed.

The terms “residues” and “contaminants” often get mixed up in discussions about food safety. Residues refer to the trace amounts of substances left in food products like fruits, vegetables, or cereals after the use of plant protection products.

Contaminants, however, are unwanted substances that accidentally end up in food either naturally or through human activities and can be harmful to health.

The study also touched on the topic of mold in food, a concern linked to the presence of natural toxins. Mold toxins, even in small amounts, are harmful to both humans and animals.

For example, moldy jam should be completely discarded, yet 25% of respondents admitted to only removing the moldy part and consuming the rest.

Similarly, when dealing with moldy berries, it is safest to discard both the affected and surrounding fruits, though only 60% of respondents follow this practice.

These findings underscore a critical need for better public education and information dissemination regarding both the presence and risks of natural toxins in foods. Understanding these risks is crucial for making informed decisions about food safety and health.

If you care about nutrition, please read studies that ultra-processed foods may make you feel depressed, and Vitamin D could help reduce depression symptoms.

For more information about nutrition, please see recent studies about antioxidants that could help reduce the risk of dementia, and Omega-3 supplements could improve memory functions in older people.

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