Lectin Poisoning – Denmark

45 people became sick, including 24 on one day, in late April from lectin poisoning. The outbreak was limited to a catering company delivering food for another business in the Copenhagen area.

The outbreak was caused by phytohaemagglutinin (PHA) in frozen red kidney beans from Turkey, via Sweden.

The producer of beans is thought to have used blanching for 10 to 15 minutes but they need 30 or 45 minutes of cooking at least.

Symptoms of poisoning include vomiting and diarrhea within a few hours of eating beans that have not been cooked for long enough to reduce this lectin and last for a few hours. Only a few beans are needed to cause poisoning.

Ingestion of the lectins present in certain improperly cooked vegetables can result in acute gastro-intestinal tract distress.

Lectins are naturally occurring proteins that are found in most plants, especially legumes and grains. In small amounts they do not cause issues.

Lectin poisoning is becoming more common, due to the rise in vegan and plant-based meat substitutes.

Photo: Red kidney beans.

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