TECH

A Parasitic Worm Egg Could Soon Be Legally Bought As Food In Germany

Nope, nope, nope.

07/08/2017 14:33

You could soon be able to buy edible parasitic worm eggs in Europe, as Germany looks to review the legal status around the little gut-lurkers.

And we all just were a bit sick in our mouths.

The (stomach-turning) news is according to reports from New Scientist, that a ‘novel food’ application by Thai company ‘Tanawisa’ has been officially accepted by Germany’s Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) for evaluation.

This would be the first product of it’s kind to “get this far” according to Detlev Goj from the company, although it has been approved in Thailand for five years. 

piola666 via Getty Images

There have been attempts by scientists in the last few decades to prove the value of chomping down on a tiny worm that wants to live in your intestine.

A 2014 study investigated the possible value to patients with autoimmune diseases, such as Crohn’s disease, and found that it can reduce diarrhea, bleeding and abdominal pain. 

The worm in question is the pig whipworm (Trichuris suis), and not to be confused with the pig tapeworm which, according to the NHS, can cause serious problems if it moves from your gut elsewhere and forms cysts, which can destroy your organs from the inside.

No, the pig tapeworm you can only get by swallowing the faeces of another human who has the tapeworm (sorry if you were eating lunch).

Instead a pig whipworm is a parasite much more similar to the human whipworm, that infects around 1 billion people worldwide every year, but normally only lives in livestock, so cannot survive for very long inside the human body.

The perceived value of the worm is based on the ‘hygiene’ hypothesis; that diseases such as Crohn’s only exist in western societies because we are missing these parasites from our bodies, whereas in poorer areas of the world where the worm is present people do not. 

Now Goj and his staff are working on this premise to try and convince authorities in the European Union, starting with Germany, that selling vials of these worm eggs (containing 500, 1000 or 2500) could be of health benefit to their citizens.

But (unsurprisingly) medical experts aren’t rushing to support any change in legislation.

Helena Helmby at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told New Scientist: “Self-medication with any type of worm is not recommended and it is important to remember they’re not in any way completely harmless, and may cause quite severe side effects if not monitored very carefully by a doctor.”

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