Contamination resulting from the intake of toxic substances by animals

Contamination of meat with toxic substances of plant origin rarely occurs. Only in a few cases the intoxication appeared to be related to the consumption of wild animals which had ingested highly toxic plant material shortly before they were consumed. Toxic contaminants in milk and aquatic organisms can originate from feed.

2.3.2.1 Contamination of milk with plant toxins Many foreign substances have been detected in milk. Milk is readily contaminated when lactating animals or women ingest toxins. Contamination of milk with plant toxins has been observed in the US in rural areas, where the inhabitants depend on the local milk supply. The toxin originated from either white snakeroot (Polygonum), or the rayless goldenrod (Solidago). Especially during periods of drought, when feed plants are scarce and the weeds are in flower, the milk may contain sufficient toxin to give rise to outbreaks of "milk sickness." In this case, the major toxic component appeared to be tremetone.

Tremetone

The symptoms were weakness, followed by anorexia, abdominal pain, vomiting, muscle tremor, delirium and coma, and eventually death. A characteristic accompanying phenomenon is the expiration of acetone. The mortality rate was between 10 and 25%.

2.3.2.2 Natural toxins in aquatic organisms Paralytic shellfish poisoning is attributed to the consumption of shellfish that have become contaminated with a toxin or group of toxins from the ingestion of toxic plankton, in particular toxic dinoflagellates. The shellfish involved are pelecypods, a family of mol-lusks, including mussels and clams. The dinoflagellates produce a complex mixture of toxins. One of the components has been identified as saxitoxin.

Shellfish poisoning symptoms include tingling and burning in face, lips, tongue, and ultimately the whole body, and parathesia followed by numbness, general motor incoordination, confusion, and headache. These symptoms develop within 30 minutes after ingestion. Death, preceded by respiratory paralysis, occurs within 12 hours. The chance of contamination and poisoning is highest during a so-called red tide. In many parts of the world, the sea sometimes suddenly becomes colored, as a result of dinoflagellate bloom. The phenomenon is referred to as red tide, although the bloom may also be yellowish, brownish, greenish, and bluish in color. The red color is probably due to the xanthophyll peridinin.

In spite of the frequent occurrence of red tide and the high toxicity of the paralytic shellfish poisons, intoxication rarely occurs. This is largely due to strict regulations set by many countries and the awareness in coastal areas of the risks associated with eating shellfish during red tides. Although ordinary cooking destroys up to 70% of the toxin(s) and pan-frying destroys even more, there may be sufficient toxin left in the mollusks to cause serious poisoning.

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