The Risk of Toxins in Mexican Vanilla. Recently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued special warnings regarding harmful contamination found in some vanilla products from Mexico. The dangers associated with vanilla are a reminder that the products we use and trust can sometimes come with hidden dangers.
Why would vanilla be contaminated?
While vanilla is an almost ubiquitous flavor, and an ingredient that has a permanent place in many people’s cupboards, the process involved in producing this product is quite involved. Vanilla ranks as one of the most labor-intensive foods to make, requiring a lot of hands-on work, and months to prepare. Because of the work and time involved in making pure vanilla, many companies opted to use a synthetic version of the flavoring. However, the growing number of consumers interested in natural and organic food products has created a high demand for natural vanilla.
As the demand for real vanilla increased, the cost rose significantly, especially because many vanilla producers had chosen to abandon the trade. In Madagascar, where the majority of the world’s vanilla is currently produced, farmers fear that their crops will be stolen.
With vanilla prices being so high, it is not surprising that imitation products end up making their way into the market. One substance that has appeared in products labeled as vanilla is coumarin, which, unfortunately, is dangerous for consumption.
What is coumarin?
Coumarin is a chemical compound that has a sweet smell. The compound is found naturally in many plants, including in small amounts in some plants that are edible. Coumarin is found in high levels in the tonka bean, which is sometimes used instead of vanilla beans to make vanilla products. This is problematic, as coumarin is considered dangerous and the FDA has banned coumarin from food products in the United States.
How is coumarin dangerous?
Coumarin is similar to warfarin, which is a medication used as a blood thinner. Blood thinners are used for patients who have the risk of forming blood clots, or emboli. If a patient who is taking a blood thinning medication consumes foods that contain coumarin, that patient runs the risk of experiencing a bleeding event. In individuals who do not need to take blood thinners, coumarin can still cause a host of symptoms. A person who has ingested coumarin might experience diarrhea, blurred vision, nausea, loss of appetite, blood in stools or urine, headache, and unusual bruising or bleeding. There is also a possibility of suffering an allergic reaction to coumarin.
Caution when purchasing vanilla
It is necessary to be cautious when buying products like vanilla. There is a risk that a product might contain ingredients that are unexpected, and potentially harmful. Coumarin and tonka beans still can be found in Mexican vanilla products because their flavor can be used to cover up the unpleasant flavors in low-quality vanilla flavorings. Be sure to read labels and look for known ingredients such as “vanilla beans,” and avoid products that do not specify ingredients. Obviously, avoid any product that contains “tonka beans” as well, as this product could likely contain coumarin.
Free Mexican Vanilla Poisoning Case Evaluation
If you become ill or otherwise suffer an injury as the result of a tainted food product, you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your claim. Call Parker Waichman LLP today at 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529) for a free consultation with one of our attorneys.