Expert Opinions in Food Toxicology

The focus of these Expert Opinions is mainly the occurrence of various toxic compounds in food that may lead to a serious health risk to persons who ingest these contaminations with their food. The toxins originate from different sources and generally have a broad spectrum of toxic effects:

1. Naturally Occurring Components of Food

These compounds include, for example, the phasin of uncooked green beans that causes disorders of the gastrointestinal tract when the beans are uncooked. Other examples are the various fungal components such as the amanitins from the Green Amanita phalloides.

2. Toxic Contaminants Formed in or on Food

A well-known example for these groups of compounds are the botulinum toxins which may be formed under certain conditions in airtight canned food such as meat, sausages, beans, etc..

Another relevant group of such contaminants are the so-called mycotoxins, which now also have a significant food toxicological relevance. They are formed as so-called secondary metabolites of molds on or in a large number of foods (bread, jams, nuts, etc.). This group includes, for example, the so-called aflatoxins, fumonisins, Fusarium toxins, ochratoxin A and trichothecenes (deoxynivalenol ("DON"), T2 toxin, etc.).

The currently growing toxicological importance of this group of compounds results on one hand from the fact that the infestation of food with mycotoxins is not easily to detect in all cases, on the other hand from the large spectrum of toxic effects, which are shown by these mycotoxins: In addition to a carcinogenic and mutagenic effects occur lesions of the gastrointestinal tract, nervous system, kidneys, liver, immune system, the skin as well as of fetuses. They can cause allergies and can affect metabolic processes by reinforcing or weakening.

3. Contamination with Xenobiotics from Various Sources

Examples of impurities of natural origin for the occurrence of fruits of the black nightshade (Solanum nigrum) in peas (inadvertent introduction of the fruits during harvest of the peas) and the occurrence of ergot alkaloids in cereals.

Examples of anthropogenic contaminants are the occurrence of nitrite eg. in vegetables and pesticides in fruits.

4. Technical Food Additives

This group includes, for example, food preservatives such as benzoic acid, biphenyl and nitrite (pickling salt).