24 Dec, 2021 @ 16:30
1 min read

WARNING: Why doing this one thing during the traditional Christmas Eve feast in Spain could be a danger to your health

prawns by fiona govan
prawns by fiona govan

THE traditional Christmas feast in Spain takes place on Christmas Eve and is likely to involve an inordinate amount of seafood – and you’ll likely be presented with a platter of prawns.

But don’t be tempted to follow a Spaniard’s advice and such on the prawn’s head, because although it may be the tastiest and juiciest part of the dish, it is also the most dangerous.

The head of a prawn is widely considered to be a delicacy by Spaniards and is pulled off and sucked on before the body is peeled and the white meat consumed.

Prawn Head Photo By Fiona Govan
The prawn head: Tasty but dangerous. Photo by Fiona Govan

But the Spanish Food & Safety Agency, (AESAN) warns diners not to suck the heads of such shellfish because of the health risks associated with cadmium.

Concentrated levels of cadmium (Cd), which is a heavy metal associated with zinc, copper and lead, are found in the dark meat of crab and lobster as well as edible offal such as liver and kidneys of sheep and cows.

20210829 211342 1

In creatures such as prawns and langostinos, the head is where the hepatopancreas is found, the organ that forms part of the digestive tract and accumulates the greatest stores of cadmium.

This cannot be processed by humans and can cause problems in the liver and kidneys.

The metal gradually accumulates in the human body over a period of between 10 and 30 years and can cause renal problems or liver damage, demineralization of bones and in the worst case, cancer. 

It has been classed a category 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

The WHO has also classified it as a carcinogen.

So no matter how tempting (or otherwise) it is to slurp on a prawn’s head, you can offer up a really good excuse as to why you won’t be  joining in this one Spanish tradition.


Fiona Govan

Fiona Govan joined The Olive Press in March 2021. She moved to Spain in 2006 to be The Daily Telegraph’s Madrid correspondent and then worked for six years as Editor of The Local Spain. She lives in Madrid’s Malasaña district with her dog Rufus.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

papa noel
Previous Story

Winter wonderland: He came for the Costa del Sol but then discovered Spain’s Sierra Nevada ski resort

Christian Brueckner And Maddie
Next Story

EXCLUSIVE: Explosive fingerprint clue as Madeleine McCann suspect faces three new charges

Latest from Food & Drink

Go toTop

More From The Olive Press