Food toxicology

The toxicology is a science that studies various chemicals and reaction of the organism to these further analyze the methods to counteract the side effects, therefore the food toxicology is based on the study of chemical components, additives and contaminants food and its adverse effects on the body .

For this, it is necessary to understand that the toxics that occur in food are not specific, they can be of natural origin (whose origin is a natural food), intentional (substances foreign to the food but its concentration is known) or accidental (not known). knows the reason why it is found in the food , or its concentration), there are also the toxics generated by the process (chemically treated food).

Five factors intervene to produce an intoxication process: the toxic agent, a biological system, absorption from the organism, the interaction time between the toxic agent and the organism, in addition to the excretion of the toxic agent. The interaction time will be one of the most important factors, since it will allow identifying the level of risk in which an intoxicated individual is found and thus it will also be known if acute, subacute or chronic intoxication is present.


[ hide ]

  • 1 Historical Review
  • 2 Classification of food toxics
  • 3 Food contamination process
  • 4 Types of food toxins
    • 1 Toxics of natural origin where they are:
    • 2 Toxic substances of intentional origin (additives) such as:
    • 3 Toxic substances of accidental origin such as:
    • 4 Toxics generated during food processing such as:
  • 5 References
  • 6 Bibliography
  • 7 Sources

Historical review

Toxicology exists since prehistory, because men used plant and animal poisons for hunting , war, murder.

During this period, the societies were very small as it is known, they lived on hunting and gathering. Adult men were engaged in hunting and gathering was done by women. When hunting, men had no problems with toxics since most meats are not toxic, but the problem was caused by women since they were in greater danger due to the high toxicity of plants and fungi , because of that they should have known them. To do this, they relied on:

  1. Visual observation of animals: if a vegetable is eaten by a herbivore and nothing happens, they can prove it. Even with this, it must be borne in mind that the interspecific differences (“if a fungus has been eaten by a snail is edible” this statement is completely false and, therefore, before eating the snails we have to purge them, at least for one week).
  2. Trial and error: the animals warn of their dangerousness through striking colors but the vegetablesdo not and what they did was collect them and take them to the town and they gave them to the oldest of the tribe or to the sick and they saw the results. If nothing happened then everyone ate it.

This experience served them, and some of this knowledge was used by Paleolithic men, who impregnated the spearheads or arrows with different toxic substances.

The first written reference was the Ebers Papyrus (1500 BC), where the oldest written quote about medicines and poison is found, with references to poisons and medicines such as lead , antimony , copper , conine, opium , etc.

In the saggarah papyrus, reference is made to the toxic properties of bitter almond, which according to the Louvre papyrus, was used as an execution poison.

As much the Eastern mythology, as the Greek or the Roman, make frequent the use of toxins. According to mythology, carbonic acid was released from the crack of Parnassus in others, the hydrogen sulfide, gases that contributed their pharmacodynamic properties to ceremonies.

The history of humanity contemplates cases like those of Socrates, who uses his knowledge on hemlock and Cleopatra who uses the cobra snake, to end his life in a less stormy way.

In the Middle Ages, the first known center was opened to exclusively care for intoxicated patients, due to the famous ergot epidemic, which occurred in the south of France and will be in charge of the religious order of the Antonisti brothers. Furthermore, at this time the history of the poison constitutes in a certain way the sap of political and court life during long stages. The “potion” was a determining factor in the election and death of some rulers. Names of women as famous as Madame Toffana, Lucrecia Borgia, Catalina de Médicis, etc. appear. who have gone down in the history of Toxicology for their profession of poisoners.

Classification of food toxics

Food toxic agents are classified according to their origin in [1] :

  • Natural toxic components of foodanimal origin , higher plants, higher fungi and antinutritive substances ).
  • Biological contaminants ( infectionsbacterial and mycotic).
  • Chemical contaminants (organic and inorganic).
  • Food Additives.
  • Toxic substances formed during the processing, preparation and storage of food, in the same way in the same consumer.
  • Carcinogenic substances of food origin.
  • The process of interaction between nutrients and xenobiotics (toxic substances that come from outside).

Food contamination process

Various factors intervene in the process of a picture of intoxication [2] :

  • Causing toxic agent.
  • Biological system.
  • Absorption through the biological system.
  • Interaction time of the toxic agent.
  • Excretion of the toxic.

The agent can be chemical or physical, although in the case of food it will always be treated with toxic chemical substances that are commonly called xenobiotic agents, a pharmacological term used for a foreign substance foreign to the body .

The biological system is very important, since it represents the organism in which the toxic substance will act, in such a way that the effect caused will vary according to this biological system, since it will cause certain reactions in an animal and others very different in the human being .

The effect of a toxin and its absorption also varies according to the route by which it enters the body ; for example: hexane will cause unconsciousness in approximately 3 minutes if inhaled, but if it were dissolved in a glass of water , the same individual could drink enough glasses without any toxic reaction being observed.

The time in the same way, is important because it is the basis to know the degree of intoxication that an individual presents according to the time of exposure to the agent, according to the degree of alteration of the individual the poisoning can be classified as: [3]

  • IntoxicationAcute poisoning exposure in a period of less than 24 hours.
  • Subacute poisoning: this type of poisoning does not manifest itself clearly and clearly but is the consequence of a not very long exposure time to the toxic agent.
  • Chronic poisoning: It occurs after repeated and very long exposure (greater than 90 days) against the toxic agent.
  • Recurrent intoxication: this type of intoxication leads the affected individual to a state of increasing biological deficiency, making his recovery capacity increasingly deficient.

As for the excretion of a toxic substance, it is generally through urine , bile , faeces and in the case of volatile substances they will be eliminated by the expired air ; exceptionally some substances are eliminated by milk , sweat or saliva . [4]

Types of food toxins

There are a large number of toxics (they act in the short term) associated with food , as well as anti-nutritional factors (they act in the long term), which have the ability to cause irreversible physiological and / or anatomical abnormalities in most cases. Among these substances are:

  • Antienzymes: they inhibit the endogenous digestive enzymatic action (proteases, amylases, etc.)
  • Antivitamins: Increase or decrease the body’svitamin requirements (Anti-thiaminases, ascorbic-oxidases, avidins, etc.)
  • Mineralsequestrants : They interfere with the uptake of minerals and their assimilation (Antithyroid, phytates, oxalic acid , ovotransfernins, etc.)

Next, some food groups and products of common consumption will be mentioned, along with the toxins that can be found in them, according to their origin [5] :

Toxic of natural origin where they are:

  1. Legumes: cyanogenated carbohydrates, flatulence promoters, enzyme inhibitors, agglutinins, saponins, fabism.
  2. Cereals: Mycotoxins ( aspergillus, penicillum, fusarium, claviceps), phytic acid, amylase inhibitors.
  3. Stimulant drinks: caffeinetheophylline , theobromine, alcohol .
  4. Proteins, peptides, amino acids: butulin toxin, staphylococcal toxin, perfringes toxin, falotoxin, anatoxin, islanditoxin, latrism, selenoamino acids, mimosine, hypoglisine, canavanine.
  5. Antivitamins: avidin, coumarol, lipoxidase, citral, tocopherol oxidase, antiniacin, antipyridoxine.
  6. Various: cotton(gossypol), potato (solanine), sweet potato (ipomeamarone), fish and shellfish (tetradotoxin, saxitoxin), cheese (biogenic amines), eggs (cholesterol).

Intentional toxins (additives) such as:

  1. Legumes: preservatives, dyes, enhancers and antioxidant.
  2. Cereals: flavors, sweeteners, stabilizers and flavorings.
  3. Stimulating drinks: nitrates, nitrites, emulsifiers and clarifiers.
  4. Proteins, peptides, amino acids : minerals , acidulants, sequestrants and gums.
  5. Antivitamins: solvents, defoamers, enzymesand vitamins .
  6. Various: clouding, diluents, humectants, etc.

Accidental toxics such as:

  1. Legumes: Pesticides (Organochlorines, carbamates, nicotiniodes, pyrethrins).
  2. CerealsPesticides (organophosphates, cyclodiene, rotate no id es)
  3. Stimulant drinks: Metalslead , mercury , selenium , aluminum , cadmium , arsenic , chromium )
  4. Proteins, peptides, amino acids: Microorganisms ( salmonella , coliforms, viruses , clostridium , shigella , staphylococci , etc.)
  5. Antivitamins: trichinosis, antibiotics, phthalates.
  6. Various: radiation, PVC, hormones .

Toxics generated during food processing such as:

  1. Legumes: Maillard’s Reactions,
  2. Cereals: Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
  3. Stimulant drinks: biogenic amines.
  4. Proteins, peptides, amino acids : Nitrosamines, isopeptides, quinolones, hydrochlorins.
  5. Antivitamins: Hydrobrines.
  6. Miscellaneous: Amino acid breakdown.


Leave a Comment