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Food Toxicology


Food Toxicology by Debasis Bagchi and Anand Swaroop, eds. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2016. Hardcover, 562 pages. ISBN: 9781498708746. $219.95.

Food Toxicology is a first edition textbook edited by Debasis Bagchi, PhD, and Anand Swaroop, PhD, and written by 72 contributors who are experts in their respective fields. It is composed of 25 chapters and 552 pages. Each chapter has approximately 100 references.

The book is extremely comprehensive and begins with the basics of food toxicology. Chapter 1 discusses the dose-response effect, and Chapter 2 reviews measurements of toxicants and toxicity. Chapters 3 and 4 discuss the carcinogenic risk associated with cooking and food contaminants in all types of foodstuff. However, a limitation of Chapter 3 is that it introduces curcumin from turmeric (Curcuma longa, Zingiberaceae) rhizome as a source for chemoprevention, but neglects to mention the multitude of other herbs that also have potential chemopreventive activities.

Globalization of the food supply has necessitated increased focus on food and potential toxic contaminants. About two-thirds of foodborne illness cases are caused by bacteria and the other third are attributed to other causes. Food Toxicology discusses the pathogenic microorganisms associated with fruits and vegetables (Chapter 7) as well as  other causes of foodborne illness, such as mycotoxins (toxins produced by fungi; Chapter 9), other naturally occurring toxins (including ciguatoxins, shellfish toxins, aflatoxins, and plant toxins; Chapters 12 and 13), mushroom toxins (Chapter 14), and other substances, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (Chapter 5), radionuclides (Chapter 10), dioxins (Chapter 15), mercury (Chapter 16), lead found in tea (Camellia sinensis, Theaceae) leaf extract (Chapter 17), vanadium (Chapter 18), and fluoride (Chapter 19).

The techniques, additives, and safety concerns associated with food preservation are addressed in Chapter 20, which also discusses the toxicology of antioxidants used for food preservation. This is followed by a discussion of contaminants in food from industrial processing (e.g., cleaning, sorting, blanching, thermal treatment, fermentation, curing, irradiation, ultraviolet treatment, high pressure processing, and additives) in Chapter 21. Consumers  may not be aware that food packaging can also contaminate food. Chapter 23 delves into the types of packaging contaminants, including those from cookware.

Despite the book’s focus on food toxicology, there is also a chapter on the epidemiology, diagnosis, prevention, and management of food allergies (Chapter 6); a chapter on safety issues associated with with food ingredients from plant cell, tissue, and organ cultures (Chapter 9); a review of cancer and functional foods for the treatment of cancer (Chapter 22); and a chapter on gut microbial activity in health and disease (Chapter 24). In addition, there is a chapter on toxicity of infant products, such as infant formula (Chapter 11). Specifically, this chapter focuses on the standardized protocol used to assess safety of infant products, and includes an evaluation of that process and the authors’ proposed changes to the standard.

A high point of the book is the chapter titled “The Future of GM Foods or GM Foods of the Future: Where is the Biotech Revolution Heading?” This chapter, which focuses on genetically modified (GM) foods and crops, is unbiased and scientific. It clearly describes the opponent and proponent views. The content does not try to sway the reader, but rather to educate. The chapter begins with a thorough explanation of the technology behind and benefits of GM crops, then describes the potential risks associated with GM crops, alternatives to GM crops, and concludes with the monitoring of GM food in the supply chain. Anyone who really wants to understand the current controversy surrounding the genetic modification of food should read this concise chapter. I can highly recommend this book because of this chapter alone.

Food Toxicity is written at the level of the educated lay-person and can be considered a science-based source of information on all aspects of food toxicology. However, if the reader is looking for information to prevent food toxicity, this text falls short. If that is the readers’ goal, they can take the knowledge gained from this book and conduct a more pointed internet search. In any event, Food Toxicity is a very interesting read, at least for someone like me (after all, I am a toxicologist!).

—Heather S. Oliff, PhD
Medical Writer,
Science Consulting Group, LLC
North Tustin, California