Tue | Mar 20, 2018

Poison in our plates - How do we really know what we are consuming?

Published:Wednesday | April 12, 2017 | 12:00 AMSherika Whitelocke-Ballingsingh

Preparing a lovely dish with potentially poisonous or adulterated food could be referred to as unintentional self-poisoning through food consumption. The recent discussion on plastic rice in Jamaica, the recall of curry that is contaminated with lead, and the ban on corned beef suspected of being tainted imported has stirred a lot of questions in the minds of many Jamaicans.




How do we really know what we are putting in our plates? And, who can we trust?

Spike and Moyer, in their research, describe adulterated food as two types: one is food fraud, which is an intentional act for economic gain, and the other is an unintentional act.

Eating any kind of adulterated food has public health implication on the consumer's health and well-being, and so this requires active participation of not only relevant authorities, but also everyone to be the lookers and watchers of what is on our food market here in Jamaica.

There are times when individuals travel and purchase different food items by which they bring into the country and share them with family members and friends. this also is a medium in which adulterated food items can get on our plate. Be very cautious and not naive about the source of your food.




There is no definite way of knowing whether your food is adulterated until after cooking and eating, and sometimes you might feel ill after, or maybe not. You can feel as normal as before with a poisonous substance in your body. The important thing, however, is to be cognisant that there are food products around with potential poisonous substance in them, so keen attention should be given to products that are purchased and those that are constant on recall.

Identification of adulterated food most times requires the use of scientific testing, but this might not give a true reading in all cases. Do not ignore the use of your senses, which can help one to decipher some adulteration through close observation.







Once you have ingested or not certain if you have ingested any form of potentially poisonous food, contact the local health provider within your area, whether it is through the public or private system, and alert the relevant authorities with the relevant information:

1. Time of consumption

2. Name of product

3. Source of product

4. Ingredients

5. Amount consumed

Poisoning can sometimes happen in the most unlikely ways. Being equipped with information on knowing what to do is very important in protecting your health and the health of your family. Understand that the ingestion of poisonous substance can have both an acute and chronic effect with overtime exposure, so get the required help that is needed in protecting your health.

- Sherika Whitelocke-Ballingsingh is a Public Health Inspector, PGCT. Medical Toxicology, MPHI, The Caribbean Poison Information Network (CARPIN).

1-888-POISONS (764-7667) sballingsingh@utech.edu.jm