Health risks of natural origin

Friday, 22 September, 2017

It’s natural so it must be good — right? Actually — no!

Consumers are naturally cautious about contaminants in their food. In Germany the risks posed by mercury in fish and dioxin in eggs and milk are the most well-known contaminants, but consumers are quite uninformed about naturally occurring contaminants such as pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) in honey or tea.

And, even if they are aware of the ‘natural’ potential contaminants like PAs, only one-third believe they pose a significant risk.

The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) interviewed 1001 people about contaminants in food and found:

  • 78% were aware of mercury in fish.
  • 70% were aware of dioxin in milk or eggs.
  • 26% were aware of arsenic in rice and rice products, only 36% of these people thought the arsenic posed a significant health risk.
  • 13% were aware of pyrrolizidine alkaloids in tea or honey, 57% of these people thought the PAs posed a significant health risk.

Understanding the health risks posed by contaminants was not evenly spread across the population with men and those under 29 less likely to be cognisant with the risks.

Assuming these trends are not limited to Germany, it is beholden to industry stakeholders to raise awareness and understanding of the risks posed by natural contaminants.

The full BfR article can be read in the journal Bundesgesundheitsblatt - Gesundheitsforschung - Gesundheitsschutz (doi:10.1007/s00103-017-2557-2 - in German with English abstract).

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