While we usually think of toxic substances as coming from man-made sources, many occur naturally. For example, toxic mussel outbreaks in the ocean have claimed lives and caused illness because the mussels consumed contained an algal toxin. Fresh water is not without toxic substances, either. For example, a group of fairly common organisms called cyanobacteria produce toxins called microcystins. Deaths of cattle, wildlife, and family pets have been traced to drinking water containing microcystins, as have several liver-related illnesses in humans(1). Although naturally occurring toxins are all around us, if one is educated to where and how they occur, steps can be taken to avoid them.
Natural Toxins in Food Topics
1. Ellie Prepas, Understanding Natural Toxins, University of Alberta, Zoology Department. August 31, 1995. URL: http://www.nserc.ca/seng/prepas.htm
Prepared Summer 1997 by Bernadene Magnuson, Ph.D.
University of Idaho, Dept. of Food Science and Toxicology - EXTOXNET FAQ Team.