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Food Toxins

9 Food Toxins That Are Really Worrying

We all have probably heard or read somewhere about several food ingredients or foods being toxic – while the majority of these claims have never been proved, nor are supported by science.

However, it is true that there are certain dangerous toxins in food that are capable of being severely harmful to the people who consume them; certainly when consumed in large quantities.

What are Toxins?

Such toxic compounds that are naturally developed and produced by living organisms are called Natural Food Toxins. They do not result harmful for the organisms that they are developed within, but these dangerous food poisoning toxins in food can be fatal when consumed by other living beings such as humans.

Listed below are 9 foods, ingredients, or compounds that consist of harmful food toxins:

1. Bisphenol A

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a known chemical, commonly found in plastic containers that carried beverages and/or foods; along with being in the lining of canned foods. Studies observed that this chemical seeped out of these containers and got absorbed into the foods.

It works just like estrogen and binds itself to the hormonal receptor sites, becoming a hindrance to hormonal functions. However, considering these effects, more and more cans and plastics are now being manufactured BPA-free.

2. Yoga mat chemical aka azodicarbonamide 

Azodicarbonamide, popularly known as “the chemical in yoga mats” – while is commonly used as cushioning when manufacturing certain plastics, it is also extensively utilized in conditioning the dough; because while being utilized to condition dough, it takes the place of flour aging, serving as an oxidizing agent.

Van Hari, in his mission to target well-known brands such as Mcdonald’s and Subway to stop using the compound, made it public aware of it. While he only targeted big names that used the compound in their dough, Azodicarbonamide is actually used in countless foods.

3. Artificial trans fats

Manufactured by pumping hydrogen into unsaturated oils, to transform them into solid forms of fat – Artificial trans fats was completely banned in the United States in January of 2020.

Studies, as well as experiments, have shown how this compound causes serious inflammation while having adverse effects on your heart’s health. Discontinued since the ban, is used to be a part of several processed foods such as margarine, snack foods, and packaged baked goods.

4. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons

When fuels such as gasoline and coal are burned, a harmful compound is formed called Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs). People can commonly end up consuming it when they’re served with charred, or even grilled food.

While its full impacts on humans are yet to be fully discovered, this chemical has proven to augment the risk of cancer among animals.

Pre-cooking your charred or grilled food, and then completing it over low flame can help you majorly cut back on consuming this harmful compound.

5. Myristicin

Commonly found in nutmegs, parsnips, dill, celery, carrots, and even black pepper; Myristicin is one of a kind chemical, consisting of properties that can cause you to experience delirium, hallucinations, and euphoria. It can also be deadly enough to cause neurological damage if consumed in large quantities.

6. Mushroom toxins

Wild mushrooms can be found carrying toxins like muscimol or muscarine, which are capable of causing hallucinations, salivation, vomiting, diarrhea, and confusion. Once ingested, the symptoms can occur as early as within 6-24hrs.

It is strongly suggested to refrain from consuming any wild mushrooms unless you’re certain about their non-poisonous property. Also, contrary to the popular belief, peeling or cooking mushrooms does not make any difference.

7. Coumarin in cinnamon

Found in cassia cinnamon, coumarin is a naturally occurring and scented toxin. Along with a couple of other plants, it can also be found in ceylon cinnamon.

Today, many manufacturers opt to utilize cassia cinnamon as a spice over Ceylon cinnamon because of its more distinct flavor and lower price point. In 2004, the EFSA established that it is safe to consume up to 0.1 mg of coumarin/day.

8. Added sugars

Commonly known as “empty calories, added sugars have a list of harmful effects to offer. Such sugars when high in fructose can cause serious problems such as diabetes (type 2), obesity, fatty liver disease, and even cancer.

Foods that contain a high amount of added sugars are also found to be very addictive, making it difficult for people to cut back on them. Holding back on soda, packed juices, and processed desserts can help limit this sugar intake.

9. Mercury in fish

While fish itself is an amazing source of protein, a known food toxin called mercury has made its way into the deep sea fish, as a pollutant. Mercury contaminated water has equally contaminated plants growing in it, which are consumed by smaller fish, that are later consumed by bigger fish – a point comes when this pollutant toxin is present in those fish though their food chains, which are then consumed by humans.

Being a neurotoxin, it damages the nerves and brain; and is said to be specifically dangerous for pregnant women and children. However, intentionally opting for fish that are low on mercury can keep you safe; such as salmon, pollock, herring, and catfish.

Minimizing Risk From Natural Food Toxins

It is necessary for us all to be aware of how a variety of foods and crops possess natural food poisoning toxins – However, consuming a healthy and balanced diet can ensure to keep the consumption of natural toxins in food to a minimum threshold.

Here’s a list of advices that if followed, can help you minimize the risk that comes with the consumption of natural toxins in food:

  • Not everything “natural” can be considered safe
  • Stay miles away and get rid of moldy foods; and the bruised, damaged, discolored, or contaminated food
  • Any food item that tastes slightly unusual, or does not smell or taste fresh; refrain from consuming it to avoid foodborne illness
  • Mushrooms and wild plants should only be consumed once they are certainly identified as nonpoisonous

– Disclaimer –
This blog is for informational & educational purposes only, and does not intend to substitute any professional medical advice or consultation. For any health related concerns, please consult with your physician, or call 911.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed by Dr. Syra Hanif, M.D. on 09/26/2022

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  • About The Author

    Dr. Syra Hanif M.D.

    Board Certified Primary Care Physician

Dr. Syra Hanif is a board-certified Primary Care Physician (PCP) dedicated to providing compassionate, patient-centered healthcare.

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