The Food Standards Agency is reminding consumers, especially pregnant women, about the dangers of ingesting clay, clay-based ‘detox’ drinks and supplements. The advice is being reissued after high levels of lead and arsenic were discovered in products being distributed by online retailers, despite the FSA warning of the potential health dangers only last year.
Exposure to arsenic can be associated with an increased risk of lung, skin and bladder cancer. Exposure to lead presents a risk for infants and children in particular, as it can be detrimental to brain development and affect intellectual performance. For the same reason, pregnant women are also advised to avoid eating or drinking clay due to the potential risk to their unborn child.
The FSA is advising people not to purchase or consume the following products:
- Bentonite Clay, sold by buywholefoodsonline.co.uk
- Bentonite Clay, sold by nealsyardremedies.com
- Calcium Bentonite Clay, sold by natures-harvest.co.uk
- French Green Montmorillonite Clay sold by naturalrussia.com
- Premium Calcium Montmorillonite Clay, sold by synergy-health.co.uk
- Edible Earth digestive detoxicant and ionic mineral supplement, sold by detoxpeople.eu and wholesalehealthltd.co.uk
This is not a definitive list of products or retailers. There may well be other brands, online and shop retailers selling similar products.
If you have consumed these products and have any concerns, speak to your doctor.
The FSA is also reminding food manufacturers and retailers of their responsibility to ensure the products that they sell are safe and comply with the law. The Agency is working with online retailers to ensure that these products are either removed or marked as not safe for human consumption.
The science behind the story
Lead occurs naturally, but human industrial activity and uses have also contributed to its presence in the environment. Food is the major source of human exposure to lead. Lead accumulates in the body and most seriously affects the developing central nervous system in young children. It may also have an impact on the cardiovascular systems and kidneys of adults.
Maximum limits have been set in the European Union (EU) for lead in various foods and will be subject to review. The European Food Safety Authority recently indicated that levels of lead in food in general in the EU are beginning to fall due to efforts to bring them down.
Arsenic also occurs naturally in the environment and is present in a wide range of foods at very low levels. Its toxicity depends on the chemical form in which it is present. The more dangerous form is associated with an increased risk of lung, skin and bladder cancer. The Agency’s expert independent Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COT) has advised that exposure to this form of arsenic should be as low as possible.