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Consumption of fa cai Nostoc soup: a potential for BMAA exposure from Nostoc cyanobacteria in China?


Roney, B R; Renhui, L; Banack, S A; Murch, S; Honegger, R; Cox, P A (2009). Consumption of fa cai Nostoc soup: a potential for BMAA exposure from Nostoc cyanobacteria in China? Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, 10(Suppl.):44-49.

Abstract

Grown in arid regions of western China the cyanobacterium Nostoc flagelliforme--called fa cai in Mandarin and fat choy in Cantonese--is wild-harvested and used to make soup consumed during New Year's celebrations. High prices, up to $125 USD/kg, led to overharvesting in Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, Gansu, Qinghai, and Xinjiang. Degradation of arid ecosystems, desertification, and conflicts between Nostoc harvesters and Mongol herdsmen concerned the Chinese environmental authorities, leading to a government ban of Nostoc commerce. This ban stimulated increased marketing of a substitute made from starch. We analysed samples purchased throughout China as well as in Chinese markets in the United States and the United Kingdom. Some were counterfeits consisting of dyed starch noodles. A few samples from California contained Nostoc flagelliforme but were adulterated with starch noodles. Other samples, including those from the United Kingdom, consisted of pure Nostoc flagelliforme. A recent survey of markets in Cheng Du showed no real Nostoc flagelliforme to be marketed. Real and artificial fa cai differ in the presence of beta-N-methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA). Given its status as a high-priced luxury food, the government ban on collection and marketing, and the replacement of real fa cai with starch substitutes consumed only on special occasions, it is anticipated that dietary exposure to BMAA from fa cai will be reduced in the future in China.

Abstract

Grown in arid regions of western China the cyanobacterium Nostoc flagelliforme--called fa cai in Mandarin and fat choy in Cantonese--is wild-harvested and used to make soup consumed during New Year's celebrations. High prices, up to $125 USD/kg, led to overharvesting in Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, Gansu, Qinghai, and Xinjiang. Degradation of arid ecosystems, desertification, and conflicts between Nostoc harvesters and Mongol herdsmen concerned the Chinese environmental authorities, leading to a government ban of Nostoc commerce. This ban stimulated increased marketing of a substitute made from starch. We analysed samples purchased throughout China as well as in Chinese markets in the United States and the United Kingdom. Some were counterfeits consisting of dyed starch noodles. A few samples from California contained Nostoc flagelliforme but were adulterated with starch noodles. Other samples, including those from the United Kingdom, consisted of pure Nostoc flagelliforme. A recent survey of markets in Cheng Du showed no real Nostoc flagelliforme to be marketed. Real and artificial fa cai differ in the presence of beta-N-methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA). Given its status as a high-priced luxury food, the government ban on collection and marketing, and the replacement of real fa cai with starch substitutes consumed only on special occasions, it is anticipated that dietary exposure to BMAA from fa cai will be reduced in the future in China.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Department of Plant and Microbial Biology
Dewey Decimal Classification:580 Plants (Botany)
Language:English
Date:2009
Deposited On:04 Feb 2010 16:24
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 13:51
Publisher:Informa Healthcare
ISSN:1471-180X
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.3109/17482960903273031
Official URL:http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.3109/17482960903273031
PubMed ID:19929731

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