Some chemicals are extremely poisonous and if ingested may result in a burning sensation in the mouth, sever vomiting and abdominal pain with in a few minutes and occasional diarrhoea. Chemicals can enter food stuffs by leakage, spillage or other accidents during processing or preparation. Unacceptable levels of benzene migration from plastic packaging and inappropriate use of fungicides have resulted on poisoning. However, acute chemical poisoning from food premises is rare and is usually caused by negligence, for example, storing weed killer, pesticide or cleaning chemicals in unlabelled food containers.
Chemcials additives of food have to undergo rigorous tests before they are allowed and are usually harmless. However, some may cause problems if ingested in large amounts, for example, three persons became ill after consuming sausages containing sodium nitrate at levels of 200 times that permitted for cured meats. Symptoms included drowsiness, dizziness, and a greying colour of the skin.
Residues of drugs, pesticides and fertilisers may be present in deliveries of raw materials. Pesticides sprayed onto fruit and vegetables just prior to harvesting may result in cumulative toxic effects and should be strictly controlled. Approximately 20,000 Spanish people became ill after using olive oil sold by street vendors, which allegedly contained industrial waste oil. At least 350 people died.
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