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.
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.
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.
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