Food Based Toxins


Food-based toxins are chemicals or substances that are present in food and can be harmful to human health. These toxins can be naturally occurring or man-made, and can be found in various food sources such as fruits, vegetables, meat, and fish.

Definition and Overview of Food-Based Toxins

Food-based toxins can be classified into different categories such as heavy metals, pesticides, food additives, and mycotoxins. Heavy metals such as lead and mercury can accumulate in the body and cause various health problems. We discussed these in great detail already. Pesticides used in agriculture can also leave residues in fruits and vegetables, which can be harmful to human health. Food additives such as artificial colors and flavors can also have negative effects on health. Mycotoxins are naturally occurring toxins produced by fungi that can grow on food crops such as grains and nuts.

Historical Perspective of Food-Based Toxins

The history of food-based toxins dates back to ancient times when people used various natural toxins for medicinal and recreational purposes. For example, arsenic was used as a medicinal treatment in ancient China, and lead was used in cosmetics in ancient Rome. However, as the understanding of the harmful effects of these substances increased, their use in food and other products has been regulated or banned.

In modern times, food-based toxins have become a significant public health concern. Advances in technology have allowed for the detection and analysis of food-based toxins in food and the environment. As a result, many countries have implemented regulations to limit the levels of food-based toxins in food products but they are still around and found in the food supply.


The Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases a “Dirty Dozen” list and a “Clean Fifteen” list each year that ranks fruits and vegetables according to the level of pesticide residue they contain.

The “Dirty Dozen” list includes the fruits and vegetables that are most likely to have the highest levels of pesticide residue, and it is recommended that people try to buy these items organic if possible. Some examples of items that have been included on the list in the past are strawberries, spinach, and apples.

The “Clean Fifteen” list, on the other hand, includes fruits and vegetables that are least likely to have pesticide residues, so they are considered the “cleanest” produce options. In the past, items such as sweetcorn, avocados, pineapples and onions have been included in the clean 15 list.

It’s important to note that the lists are created based on data collected by the USDA and FDA and are intended as a guide to help consumers make informed choices about the produce they purchase, as well as to encourage farmers to reduce the use of pesticides.

The 2021 “Dirty Dozen”

This list is from the Environmental Working Group (EWG)which includes the following fruits and vegetables, which are most likely to have significant pesticide residue.

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale
  4. Nectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Peaches
  8. Cherries
  9. Pears
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Celery
  12. Potatoes

The 2021 “Clean Fifteen”

This list is from the Environmental Working Group (EWG)which includes the following fruits and vegetables, which are least likely to have significant pesticide residue.

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Onions
  5. Papayas
  6. Frozen sweet peas
  7. Eggplants
  8. Asparagus
  9. Kiwis
  10. Cabbages
  11. Cauliflower
  12. Broccoli
  13. Mushrooms
  14. Honeydew Melons
  15. Cantaloupe

Nitrates & Nitrites

Nitrates and nitrites are commonly added to processed meats such as bacon, salami, hot dogs, and deli meats as preservatives and color fixatives. When consumed, nitrates and nitrites can convert to nitrosamines in the body, which have been linked to an increased risk of cancer.

The Role of Nitrates and Nitrites in Food Preservation and Safety

Nitrates and nitrites are compounds that have been used for centuries to preserve food and prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. Nitrates and nitrites are naturally occurring compounds found in soil, water, and plants, and they are also added to food products as preservatives. Nitrates and nitrites are effective at preventing the growth of bacteria such as Clostridium botulinum, which can cause botulism, a potentially fatal foodborne illness.

Nitrates and nitrites are used in a variety of food products, including cured meats, smoked fish, and cheeses. When added to food, nitrates and nitrites react with the proteins in the food to form nitrosamines, which are compounds that inhibit the growth of bacteria. Nitrates and nitrites also help to preserve the color and flavor of food products, and they can also act as antioxidants, preventing the oxidation of fats and oils.

The Dangers of Nitrates and Nitrites: How They Can Harm Your Health

Nitrosamines are a type of chemical compound that are formed when nitrites, which are commonly used as food preservatives, react with amino acids in certain foods. Nitrosamines are a known carcinogen, meaning they have been shown to cause cancer in humans. They are particularly concerning because they can be formed in the digestive tract, where they can be absorbed into the body and potentially cause damage. Nitrosamines have been linked to an increased risk of stomach and colorectal cancer, as well as other health issues such as liver damage and reproductive problems. Because of their potential health risks, efforts have been made to limit the use of nitrites in food production and to find alternative ways to preserve foods.

Potassium Bromate

Potassium bromate is a chemical compound used as an oxidizing agent in the baking industry. It is added to dough to strengthen it and help it rise. However, it has been linked to an increased risk of cancer as it is a possible human carcinogen. To reduce the risk of exposure to potassium bromate, it is recommended to avoid packaged baked goods such as bread, rolls, and pastries that may contain the chemical.

Potassium bromate is classified as a Group 2B carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). This means that it is “possibly carcinogenic to humans”. Studies have shown that it can cause cancer in animals, and there is some evidence that it may cause cancer in humans as well.

In addition to its potential carcinogenic effects, potassium bromate has been linked to other health hazards. It can cause kidney and thyroid damage, as well as reproductive and developmental toxicity. It has also been linked to an increased risk of asthma and other respiratory problems.

The good news is that potassium bromate is not used in all countries. In the United States, it is still allowed in some baking products, but it is banned in the European Union, Canada, and Brazil. In the United States, the FDA requires that any product containing potassium bromate must be labeled as such.

Food Dyes

Food dyes are synthetic chemicals added to food products to enhance their appearance or make them more appealing. They are commonly used in processed foods, such as candies, cereals, baked goods, and beverages. Food dyes are typically listed on food labels as a color followed by a number, such as Red No. 40 or Yellow No. 5.

Types of Food Dyes

There are two main types of food dyes: artificial and natural. Artificial food dyes are synthetic chemicals that are created in a laboratory. Natural food dyes are derived from natural sources, such as plants or insects. Natural food dyes are generally considered to be safer than artificial food dyes.

Health Effects of Food Dyes

Several studies have linked food dyes to various health problems, including hyperactivity, behavioral issues, and allergic reactions. In 2010, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) acknowledged that food dyes may exacerbate symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in some children.

In addition to behavioral problems, food dyes have also been linked to allergic reactions, particularly in people with sensitivities to aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Yellow No. 5, also known as tartrazine, is one of the most common food dyes associated with allergic reactions.

Alternatives to Food Dyes

There are several natural alternatives to synthetic food dyes, including beet juice, turmeric, and spirulina. These natural dyes can be used to give food products a vibrant color without the health risks associated with synthetic food dyes.

Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are widely used in food and beverage products as a substitute for sugar. While they may provide a sweet taste without the calories, research suggests that artificial sweeteners may have a negative impact on health. The most commonly used artificial sweeteners are aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin. Aspartame is approximately 200 times sweeter than sugar. Sucralose is approximately 600 times sweeter than sugar. Saccharin is approximately 300 times sweeter than sugar. They are used to sweeten a variety of products, including diet sodas, sugar-free candy, and sugar-free baked goods.

Artificial sweeteners can alter the composition of the gut microbiome, which can lead to metabolic disorders such as obesity and diabetes. Artificial sweeteners have also been linked to an increased risk of certain types of cancer. For example, aspartame is metabolized in the body to form methanol, which is then converted to formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.

Artificial sweeteners can alter the composition of the gut microbiota, leading to changes in the metabolic pathways of the gut. They also have been linked to changes in the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs are important for maintaining gut health, as they provide energy for the cells lining the gut and help to regulate the immune system. Artificial sweeteners can reduce the production of SCFAs, which may lead to an increased risk of inflammation and disrupt the gut barrier.

Another potential health risk associated with artificial sweeteners is an increased risk of weight gain. While artificial sweeteners are often used as a substitute for sugar in order to reduce calorie intake, some studies have suggested that artificial sweeteners may actually increase the risk of weight gain. This is thought to be due to the fact that artificial sweeteners can disrupt the body’s natural ability to regulate appetite, leading to increased food consumption.


BPA, or bisphenol A, is a chemical found in many plastics, including those used in food packaging. When these plastics come into contact with food or beverages, BPA can leach out and be consumed. BPA is known to mimic the effects of estrogen in the body and can disrupt the endocrine system. Studies have shown that exposure to BPA has been linked to a range of health issues, including reproductive problems, obesity, diabetes, and certain cancers.

To avoid exposure to BPA, it’s important to limit your use of plastic containers and packaging, especially those labeled with recycling codes 3 and 7, as these are more likely to contain BPA. Instead, opt for glass or stainless steel containers for food and beverages. When purchasing canned foods, look for brands that use BPA-free can liners. Additionally, avoid microwaving plastic containers, as heat can cause BPA to leach out into food.


Mycotoxins are toxic compounds produced by fungi that can grow on various types of crops, including grains, nuts, and spices. These substances can pose a significant threat to human health if consumed in large enough quantities. Exposure to mycotoxins has been linked to a wide range of health problems, including cancer, liver damage, kidney failure, and neurological disorders.

One of the most common types of mycotoxins is aflatoxin, which is produced by a fungus that grows on peanuts, corn, and other crops. Aflatoxin is a potent carcinogen that can cause liver cancer in humans. Other types of mycotoxins, such as ochratoxin A and zearalenone, can cause kidney damage and disrupt hormonal balance, respectively.

Mycotoxins can be found in a variety of foods, including bread, cereal, nuts, and dried fruit. They can also contaminate animal products, such as milk and meat, as well as spices and herbs. Exposure to mycotoxins can occur through ingestion, inhalation, or skin contact.

To reduce the risk of mycotoxin exposure, it is important to store food properly and to avoid consuming moldy or contaminated food. It’s also important to choose organic, non-GMO, and non-irradiated foods whenever possible, as these tend to have lower levels of mycotoxin contamination.


Propyl paraben is a food additive and a common preservative found in many personal care and cosmetic products. It has been linked to endocrine disruption and can act as a synthetic estrogen, leading to adverse effects on development, reproduction, and the neurological and immune systems. Most people probably have recognized that some personal care products now advertise as “paraben-free”. However, it is still found in some food products. Foods that may contain propyl paraben include processed foods, jams, jellies, syrups, and some dairy products.


Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) are food additives used to extend shelf life and add color to food. They have been linked to hormone disruption and harm to the reproductive system and BHA is classified as possibly carcinogenic to humans. BHT is commonly found in cereal, while BHA is commonly found in preserved meats.


PFAS, or per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, are a group of chemicals that are used in a wide variety of consumer products and commercial applications. These chemicals are persistent in the environment, meaning they do not break down, and can accumulate in the blood of people and animals. They have been linked to a variety of health harms, including cancer and damage to the immune and reproductive systems. They are commonly found in food packaging and can leach into the food itself. Some examples of items that may contain PFAS include non-stick cookware, food packaging, fast food wrappers, microwave popcorn bags, pizza boxes, and some types of waterproof clothing.

Titanium Dioxide

Titanium dioxide is a food additive used to make many candies have a nice and colorful appearance. It has no nutritional value. Some scientists have raised concerns about the potential toxicity of titanium dioxide, as it has been linked to potential health risks such as inflammatory responses, oxidative stress, and genotoxicity. It is not considered safe for human consumption, and some studies have suggested that it may be a possible human carcinogen. It’s found in many smooth looking candies with bright colors.

Holistic Treatment Solutions

The best thing you can do is educate yourself about food based toxins and remove them from your life. There are several methods for detoxing from food-based toxins, including:

  • Eliminating processed foods: Processed foods are often loaded with additives, preservatives, and artificial ingredients that can be harmful to the body. By eliminating these foods from your diet and focusing on whole, nutrient-dense foods, you can reduce your exposure to food-based toxins.
  • Eating organic: Eating organic foods can help reduce your exposure to pesticides and other chemicals commonly used in conventional farming practices. By choosing organic fruits and vegetables, grass-fed and pasture-raised meats, and wild-caught fish, you can reduce your intake of toxins.
  • Drinking plenty of water: Drinking plenty of water can help flush toxins from the body, including those that may be present in food. Aim for at least 8 glasses of water per day.
  • Supporting liver function: The liver is responsible for detoxifying the body, including food-based toxins. Supporting liver function through a healthy diet, exercise, and supplements such as milk thistle and N-acetylcysteine can help optimize its detoxification capabilities.
  • Taking supplements: Supplements such as activated charcoal, bentonite clay, and chlorella can help bind to toxins in the digestive tract and eliminate them from the body.

By implementing these methods, you can help reduce your exposure to food-based toxins and support your body’s natural detoxification processes.