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Mould on Tomatoes
Mould on Tomatoes

Toxic effect of food contaminants

Whilst the risk of cancer development is a major health concern associated with food contamination, other negative health affects include:

  • Gastrointestinal symptoms

Gastrointestinal symptoms are more likely to occur through acute exposure to toxins.

  • Liver and kidney damage

With acute exposure cases, liver and kidney damage can be caused by aflatoxicosis and melamine exposure.

  • Immune suppression

People with weakened immune systems are more susceptible to disease. For example, pregnant women, newborn babies, and people over 65. Chronic – or long-term – exposure to aflatoxins through consuming contaminated food can also suppress the immune system, thereby increasing the vulnerability to disease.

  • Growth retardation

Contaminated food can have adverse effects on child growth development. This is known to be an issue in parts of Africa, where children may have increased exposure to aflatoxins through their diet.

  • Endocrine disruptors

Endocrine disruptors are elements that negatively impact the hormone system, or endocrine, which can cause a range of adverse health affects – including both cancers and developmental disorders, posing particular risk during fetal development.

  • Bone marrow and blood generation system damage

Food contamination, such as exposure to benzene, can pose risks to bone marrow and damage to the blood generation.

  • Neurological damage

A risk of toxin exposure through food contamination is neurological damage. This can be during fetal development and child growth, but it can also result in long-term neurological damage for adults.

A question for you to consider

Can you identify other examples of chemical contaminants known to have negative impacts on human health?

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This article is from the free online course:

Tackling Global Food Safety

Queen's University Belfast