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Simple test for harmful chemicals in food

  1. Apr 11, 2015 #1
    • You have to show your attempts at solving the question to receive help. This is a forum policy.
    What are the different ways to detect harmful chemicals in food? I need to find at least 5 tests for different chemicals for my chemistry investigatory for my final exams. I have only chemicals available in a standard lab in my hand.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 11, 2015 #2

    Borek

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    Staff: Mentor

    What kinds of harmful chemicals that can appear in the food do you know? Have you tried to google them? Or just to google "food poisoning"? "Mass food poisioning"? "Food contamination"?
     
  4. Apr 11, 2015 #3
    I presume that by "harmful" in this context, you mean some toxic effect when eaten. Toxic effects are caused by interaction of that the chemical has with various vital parts of the human body. This can potentially include a large number of chemical compounds. Categories include hormone analogs like BPA (bisphenol A), neurotransmitter analogs like organophosphate nerve gases, metabolic blockers (carbon monoxide, cyanide, nitrophenol), ion channel blockers (digitalis glycosides, tetrodotoxin), protein-binding heavy metal ions (arsenic, mercury. lead etc) and many, many more.
    So, I think the question is phrased in a confusing way. I think you are being asked to generate a list of tools that might be used by a forensic or food scientist to identify components of food. This clearly involves two steps: separation and identification. The separation methods include extraction: liquid-liquid partitioning between an organic and aqueous phase is common for organic molecules (often with the pH of the aqueous phase adjusted), chelation to remove ions (e.g. EDTA to remove chromium) and a host of chromatography methods: liquid on solid, gas chromatography, High Pressure Liquid Chromatography. Once components are separated, there are many identification methods: specific chemical tests ((Marsh Test for arsenic, prussian blue test for cyanide, Meixner test for amanitin), nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, mass spectroscopy, light absorption spectroscopy (IR, UV). The separation and identification steps are sometimes combined (HPLC or GC with mass spectroscopy).
    Because food is a pretty heterogeneous mixture of chemicals that we have proven don't generally cause harm, you would have to compare your results of separation and identification with a database of harmful chemicals. It would still be difficult since there are some "harmful" constituents of normal foods present in sub-toxic amounts (e.g. hydrogen cyanide releasing chemicals in peach pits and apple seeds, arsenic in rice) and some people are sensitive to normal food constituents (e.g. food allergies, people with genetic glucose-6-phosphatase deficiency develop hemolytic anemia from eating fava beans, chemicals in raw navy beans (lectins) bind proteins causing gastrointestinal toxicity).
    Hope this lengthy diatribe helps (I am a physician and former organic chemist).
     
  5. Apr 13, 2015 #4
    Actually by harmful I mean the simplest chemicals that can be detect using simple lab techniques which cause simple or complex unwanted effects in the body. as long as the tests are simple I don't care what effects they cause.
     
  6. Apr 13, 2015 #5

    Doug Huffman

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    Gold Member

    Remember a principal of hormesis, it's not the drug but the dose. Chemicals are harmful only in adequate quantity. The Square of Opposition logic is very interesting.
     
  7. Apr 13, 2015 #6
    Please, even if it is not harmful in small measures, give me some tests which are simple enough to find out some chemicals in food items like vegetables, fruits, etc. that we get from the farms.
     
  8. Apr 13, 2015 #7
    I need to finish the tests by 17 march 2015 4:00 IST
     
  9. Apr 13, 2015 #8

    Borek

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    Staff: Mentor

    As you are already almost a month past the deadline isn't this thread a moot?
     
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