One person in Sweden has fallen ill after incorrectly preparing chickpeas and beans that were not labelled correctly.

Sweden issued a Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) notification after a report from the Sollentuna authority that a person had fallen ill. It was initially thought to be food poisoning but later changed to risk of favism.

Favism is a genetic disease that affects people with a deficiency in glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G-6-PD), an enzyme that is essential for survival of red blood cells. The broad bean (Vicia faba or fava bean) is the only food that those with favism should avoid, irrespective of mode of preparation, according to the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety (ANSES).

Björn Sjölund from Livsmedelsverket (Swedish National Food Agency) told Food Safety News that illness was most likely due to improper treatment of the beans before eating.

“These kinds of beans contain lectin naturally, they need to be prepared properly before being consumed. Consumption of lectins can cause symptoms like vomiting, nausea and diarrhea. It’s very hard to estimate how common food poisoning from lectin is as it is often not reported or reported, but classified as unknown cause because of lack of information,” he said.

“The packaging lacked the instructions for how to prepare the beans to make them safe to eat. In order to prevent further cases, an alert notification was sent out to the affected authorities.”

Information from ANSES states the G-6-PD deficiency is often asymptomatic, but when substances in certain foods are consumed, crises may occur. In this event, the red blood cells burst, causing sudden and severe anemia (neonatal jaundice in newborns or potentially lethal hemolytic anemia at any age). Quinine and Vitamin C are also described as causing hemolytic crises in patients with such a deficiency.

Affected items were made by Risenta AB and batches concerned are packs produced before Oct. 8. Risenta is a producer of healthy staple foods and part of the Paulig Group.

“The products have been removed from sale. There are six different products concerned. Since the labeling from the company in Sweden is the issue we have not sought out information regarding the origin as it is not relevant,” said Sjölund.

“The company responsible have informed the recipients of the products of the issue. The authorities are making sure that the products with faulty labeling are being taken care of.”

Affected products were also distributed in Finland but have been removed from sale.

The Finnish Food Safety Authority (Evira) advised the Horeca-sector to be aware of the risks regarding these kinds of products and to cook beans correctly. Horeca is an abbreviation of Hotel/Restaurant/Catering.

Mika Varjonen, senior officer at Evira, told us that no cases had yet been reported in the country.

“We, as a national competent authority delegate the case to local authorities and they report to us how the case is solved. In this case the food business operator responsible for these products had begun their withdrawal immediately when the authorities contacted them. Wholesale businesses were asked to remove products from sale. These were horeca-products and in Finland it is well known how to prepare and cook these products. This is why we were not so concerned about the case and did not take any more powerful measures.”

Varjonen added consumption of lectins causing vomiting, nausea and diarrhea is not common in Finland.

“It may occur in private households, if the cook does not read the instructions. I believe it is not a problem, authorities have informed these consumers and also package markings are checked by the authorities, even if this is the responsibility of the food business operators.”

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