Food Contaminants

Top 10 Food Contaminants in Our Food Supply

Food is our source of energy and its consumption becomes rather tragic when it causes illness instead of increasing our immunity. Food contaminants have, since ages, caused defects, diseases, epidemics, some lethal and some not, to both humans and animals. Keeping the ongoing competitive commercialization in mind, it is highly recommended to take precautions before consuming any food supplies.


10. Agrochemicals

Chemical contaminants can be present in foods mainly as a result of the use of agrochemicals such as residues of pesticides and veterinary drugs. The main purpose of using agrochemicals in agricultural practices and animal husbandry is to increase crop output and reduce their costs. However, excessive use of agrochemicals is now posing serious threats to the health of the consumers.

9. Processing and Cooking Contaminants

Eating cooked food is generally preferred over raw food but sometimes, mere cooking can affect our food in a bad way. When we process our food i.e. cook it in vessels made of copper or having residual lubricants or sanitizing agents, they tend to react with the natural chemicals of our food. This makes our food harmful to ingest and can cause several health issues.

8. Pesticides

Pesticides are used to protect plants and crops from the attack of weeds, insects, rodents, etc. A pesticide becomes an environmental contaminant when it is present in foods for which the application or use of the substance has not been approved. Types of pesticides include insecticides, herbicidies, rodenticides, fungicide, antimicrobials, etc. DDT, one of the most commonly used pesticide, was banned in India after its disproportionate presence in cold drinks and crops. According to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, 9 of the 12 most dangerous and persistent organic chemicals are pesticides. Even though pesticides have benefits, they also have drawbacks like potential toxicity to humans and other desired species.

7. Packaging Materials

Every now and then, one can observe change in packaging of food items- from normal plastics to tetra packs and like. This is because direct contact of foods with packaging materials can result in chemical contamination caused by migration of certain substances into foods. Examples of these include bisphenol A or phthalates from plastic materials, mineral oil from recycled fibers or semicarbazide from the plastic gaskets that are used to seal metal lids to glass packaging. Other such substances are antimony, tin, lead, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), semicarbazide, benzophenone and isopropyl thioxanthone.

6. Chemicals Residue from Animals

Many times the farm owners or big companies inject animals with artificial hormones to increase their productivity. Instances of this are injection of chemicals in cows to increase milk production or chickens to increase egg production. These artificial chemical manipulations not only unnaturally alter the animals’ health but also affect us when we consume their products. Also, another way in which animals intake chemicals is through eating pesticide-induced crops and plants.

5. Genetically Modified Food

The idea of producing food with desirable qualities paved the way for the development of genetically modified food worldwide. Scientists were able to isolate genes with favorable traits and insert them in crops to produce food that can resist drought, insects, and pesticides and even is more nutritious. But instead of benefiting, genetically modified foods have raised ample threats to our health and immune system. The extent of dangers from it is so much that it has surpassed stomach cramps and now holds a possibility of causing cancer.

4. Parasitic Contaminants

From water to animals’ organs, parasites can be present in several unhealthy conditions and are one of the major causes of food and waterborne illnesses. Parasites are organisms that live in or on a host and obtain nourishment without benefiting or killing the host. They enter the body through the mouth when contaminated food is swallowed and are of many different types. They range in size from single-celled, microscopic organisms (protozoa) to larger, multi-cellular worms (helminths) that can be seen without a microscope.

3. Bacteria

Bacteria are one of the most common food contaminants. These can contaminate food at any time during growth, harvesting or slaughter, processing, storage, and shipping.Raw foods including meat, poultry, fish and shellfish, eggs, unpasteurized milk and dairy products, and fresh produce often contain bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses. Bacteria multiply very quickly when the temperature of food is between 40 and 140 degrees. As a result, most of the health problems due to contaminated food are because of bacterial contamination.

2. Heavy Metals

Another branch of food contaminants which are of great concern are heavy metals like mercury, lead, cadmium, etc. These metals can be released into the atmosphere and simultaneously in our food chain in several ways. For instance, all of the mercury in food occurs in seafood, lead in water and air and cadmium in rice, soyabean and seafood. The heavy metal contamination in our food supplies is extremely hazardous to children.

1. PBB and PCB

Major environmental contaminants include Polybrominated Biphenyl (PBB) and Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCB). PCBs can pose danger through their accumulation in food chain, direct contact with food or animal feeds or contact with food packaging materials made from recycled paper containing PCBs. Intake of PCBs can be lethal and has also caused poisoning epidemic in Japan 1968 along with other instances. PBB too has had damaging impact on its consumers.

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