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Lidl Issues Oregano Recall after Tests Show Toxic Substance that May Cause Cancer

Bargain supermarket Lidl has issued a recall of certain oregano products after testing indicated the presence of a toxic substance.  According to reports, testing of Kania Oregano spices sold at Lidl stores showed high levels of pyrrolizidine alkaloids, a potentially dangerous ingredient.  Here is what we know about the oregano recall thus far.

Information about Oregano Recall

Lidl is warning consumers about possible toxins in Kania Oregano spices.  The supermarket offers the following information for consumers to identify if they have the product:

  • 7.5g Kania Oregano
  • Batch Code: 9163BE
  • Best By: 06/2022

Consumers who have the oregano should not use it, but should return it to a Lidl store for a refund.  Lidl says that consumers do not need a receipt in order to obtain a refund.

There are around 100 Lidl stores across the United States.  The supermarket gained immediate popularity for bargain prices and unique brands.  Consumers in the U.S. should certainly be cautious if they purchase spices from Lidl.

What are Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids?

Pyrrolizidine alkaloids are naturally occurring constituents common in plants.  Around the world, more than 350 plants species contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids.  Scientists suspect that as many as 6,000 plant species may contain the constituents.  Plants produce pyrrolizidine alkaloids as a defense mechanism against pests and predators.

Researchers have identified pyrrolizidine alkaloids in herbs and spices including oregano, marjoram and ragwort.  Some tests also suggest that pyrrolizidine alkaloids are present in honey, teas and herbal infusions.  Pyrrolizidine alkaloids may also contaminate milk from cows that feed on herbs or plants that contain the protective chemicals.  If plants that contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids are ground or made into pellets, the chemicals can poison animals or otherwise enter the food supply.

While the level of pyrrolizidine alkaloids in herbs and spices is generally low, there is concern that prolonged exposure could cause health problems.  Generally speaking, humans have little direct contact with pyrrolizidine alkaloids because toxic plants are monitored and controlled.  The alkaloids can also be extracted from plants using chloroform or ethyl acetate.

Health Risks of Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids

Long-term exposure to pyrrolizidine alkaloids can cause health problems in humans.  Primarily, long-term exposure is linked to kidney damage.  High doses can close the central sublobular hepatic vein, which can cause liver damage or necrosis.  Pyrrolizidine alkaloid intoxication, or PA intoxication, can cause symptoms including enlargement of the liver, vomiting and diarrhea with bleeding.

There is also a condition called pyrrolizidine alkaloidosis, which is a type of poisoning.  Most cases of pyrrolizidine alkaloidosis occur due to misuse of medicinal herbs or exposure to pyrrolizidine alkaloids through food or drink.  The symptoms of pyrrolizidine alkaloidosis range depending on the level of exposure and the age and health of the patient.  Patients may notice symptoms including:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Liver problems
  • Upper gastric pain
  • Dilated veins on the abdomen
  • Fever
  • Jaundice
  • Lesions on the body
  • Kidney problems
  • Lung problems

Certain pyrrolizidine alkaloids are also carcinogens.  The pyrrolizidine alkaloids known to have a carcinogenic impact include heliotridine, retronecine and otonecine types.  In animal tests, exposure to these pyrrolizidine alkaloids led to development of tumors.  Tumors were found in the bladder, brain, gastrointestinal tract, lungs, liver, skin, spinal cord and pancreas.  Because these substances metabolize similarly in humans and rodents, researchers warn there is a potential risk to humans.

In 2011, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) held a Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM).  The CONTAM panel supports ongoing research into the possible effects of pyrrolizidine alkaloids in food.  Specifically, the CONTAM panel expressed concern about exposure levels among children.  Since pyrrolizidine alkaloids are commonly found in honey, the CONTAM panel suggests more research is needed to identify the risk of certain honeys to children.

Have Questions or Concerns about the Oregano Recall or Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids?

When there is a food recall, consumers often feel unsure of what the risks are or how they should respond.  For the oregano recall, consumers should stop using Kania Oregano products immediately.  Consumers can also return products subject to the recall to their local Lidl store.

As for the risk, take note of the symptoms of pyrrolizidine alkaloidosis or kidney problems.  If you or someone you love eats Kania oregano regularly and develops these symptoms, contact your healthcare provider right away.  Furthermore, tell your healthcare provider that you have been exposed to a recalled product.

As always, you can get more information about food safety, recalls and foodborne illness here at Bad Food Recall.  Our website offers a great deal of information, but if you have questions about a specific recall or illness, you can contact us directly.  Find out more by completing our online contact form.



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