Bulletin UASVM Agriculture, 66 (2)/2009 Print ISSN 1843-5246; Electronic ISSN 1843-5386

Investigation upon the Edible Snail’s Potential as Source of Selenium for Human Health and Nutrition Observing its Food Chemical Contaminant Risk Factor with Heavy Metals

University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine, 400372 Cluj-Napoca, Romania; email at: www.vitagrom.eu 2) Laboratory of food toxicology, Institute of Nutrition, RAMS, Moscow 109240, Russia

Abstract. Being much appreciated all over the world for their high nutritional values, escargots or terrestrial snails are farmed in many countries. Within the last few years, snail farming started to become a very popular activity in Romania too. It represents an ecological type of agricultural activity that can also be certified as biological, organic farming if the soil’s conditions and the technology are as such. Extensive amount of research offers details on the physiology of the edible snail species as well as regarding their biochemical content and their nutritional value. No much research reflects snail’s ability to bioaccumulate selenium. In the same time, a lot of research demonstrated the snail’s ability to accumulate contaminants such as heavy metals. Using fluorimetric analysis, we investigated selenium accumulation in meat and shell of edible terrestrial snails Helix pomatia and Eobania vermiculata Muller gathered from different regions of Moldova Republic, Ukraine and Russia. The meat selenium concentration in terrestrial snails reflects the ability of those invertebrates to accumulate high selenium contents. Based on the intake recommendations, snails can be a very good source of selenium for human consumption. Depending upon the soil mineral content and level of contamination, the snails will accumulate large quantities of heavy metals such as lead and cadmium, therefore making the snails a very high-risk food product. Therefore, it is very important a careful selection of the agricultural land designated for snail farming. Additives containing selenium may be a way to supplement snail’s diet. Keywords: mollusk, helix pomatia, Cluj, Sorostin, toxicology, quality management, Copsa Mica

INTRODUCTION Humans are consuming edible terrestrial snails systematically since prehistoric times. Snails are herbivores found in wilderness and reared in commercial farms for their meat and shell. Such activity is encouraged since it can have an ecological and biological character if conducted properly (Toader-Williams, 2008), while snail collection from wilderness is prohibited by law in most countries due to snail’s ecological importance in maintaining the ecosystem’s equilibrium. In addition, snails from wilderness present a chemical risk factor with heavy metals due to their high bioaccumulation capacity (Regoli et al., 2006) that reflects also in the accumulation of useful microelements. Snail meat or escargot is popular in Asian, North American and Australian cuisine. In Europe, countries such as France and Italy are heavy consumers of the delicates, primarily Helix Aspersa Muller, Eobania vermiculata Muller, Helix pomatia and Helix Aspersa Maxima species. In South Africa and Nigeria, the Giant African snail Achatina Fulica is a traditional food. 495

Studies on the nutritional value of edible terrestrial Helix (sp) snail’s meat have reported that it contains high concentration of protein (13.4 -16.33 %) and are low in fat (1.08 -1.40%), the latter being presented by health benefiting essential fatty acids such as linoleic acids and linolenic acids. According to Avagnina, (2006), the energy value of snails’ meat is 67 kcal/100g, much lower than of the leanest meat or fish that makes snails a healthy alternative food for people with high protein low fat diet requirements. Snails are known to accumulate 10 times more calcium than traditional meat and their foot muscles are rich in copper and iron (29.3 and 14.0 mg/100g respectively) and contain zinc in amounts comparable with the other kinds of meat (Gomot, 1998). Great amount of research refers to snail’s physiology as well as to their meat nutritional value but little shows data about selenium (Se) accumulation. The report on Achatina Fulica foot Se content (Saldanha et al., 2001), shows levels of up to 274 µg Se/kg. Ramos-Vasconcelos and Hermes-Lima, (2003) indicates increased activity of Se dependant glutathione peroxidase in Helix aspersa during aestivation period. Among different trace elements Se is of a special interest due to its high antioxidant properties and essentiality to animals and human beings, describes Golubkina and Papazyan, (2006). Thorling et al., (1986) shows the fact that most of European countries suffer of Se deficiency. Such deficiency can be responsible with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases and several forms of cancer (Navarro-Alarcon, Cabrera-Vique, 2008). Among different food products, the meat of domestic animals is an important source of Se in human diet. Considered a nutritious food, snails’ meat seems to be also a good source of beneficial micro-minerals including selenium for humans as well as a source of heavy metal contaminants, thus representing a high-risk vehicle for chemical contaminants such as lead and cadmium. The snail’s accumulation levels is function of the soil’s mineral content as well as of the particularities of the plants they eat, situation that may be controlled by careful selection of the farming site and soil testing as well as of the plants used for feed, says Toader-Williams, (2008). The aim of the present work is to investigate the possible Se accumulation and its levels by meat and shells of edible terrestrial snails from different geographical regions known to be high in soil selenium content; one of such region is Moldova Republic (Kapitalchuk et al., 2007). Knowing the fact that terrestrial snails Helix aspersa are very good heavy metal bioaccumulators, they are used as ecological monitors (Regoli et al., 2006), (Gimbert et al., 2006)). Thus, we aimed the present work to investigate the levels of lead (Pb) and cadmium (Cd) contents of the Helix pomatia from Ardeal region of Romania. We used snails raised in a small farm located in Căpuşu Mic, Cluj County, Romania as well as the ones collected from wilderness in the so called most contaminated area with heavy metals in Europe, namely the City of Copşa Mică, Judeţul Sibiu, Romania. As opposed to Moldova Republic, we need to mention that the Se levels in Ardeal region is low (Serdaru and Giurgiu, 2007). MATERIALS AND METHODS The Se content was determined in shell and meat of land snails from Russia, Ukraine and Moldova republic such as Helix pomatia - from Moldova republic, Bendery (n=5), Ukraine, Crimea (n=5), Serpukhov district (n=10) and Klin (n=6) of Moscow region. The


snails Eobania vermiculata Muller were collected from Ukraine, Crimea, Evpatoria (n=20). The snails were collected during June-August 2008. Se concentration was detected at the Laboratory of food toxicology, Institute of Nutrition, RAMS, Moscow 109240, Russia, using single-tube microfluorimetric analysis method, (Alfthan, 1984). The accuracy and precision of the method were verified by analyzing certified reference materials: dry egg powder No.23/EKT (National Health Institute, Helsinki), 677±6 µg/kg, and lyophilized animal muscles (Agricultural Centre of Finland), 394±5 µg/kg (5 series, 12 observations), certified values being 676±6 µg/kg and 395 µg/kg, respectively. Statistical analysis was performed by Fisher Student criteria. The lead (Pb) and cadmium (Cd) contents of land snails meat were determined using Helix pomatia from Ardeal region of Romania, collected during August-September 2007 from: 1) an edible snails small farm located in Căpuşu Mic, Cluj County, Romania, 2) wilderness, City of Copşa Mică – Visa River shore, Sibiu County, Romania, 3) wilderness City of Copşa Mică, Sibiu County, Romania and 4) wilderness, Şoroştin town, Sibiu County, Romania. The Pb and Cd content has beed determined at the Prof. Dr. Iuliu Moldovan Public Health Institute of Cluj Napoca, Romania, applying the atomic absorption method using a Shimadzu AA 6300 unit, stove reading of 04 – 09 grams of homogenized probes. The mineralization done wet under pressure with a microwave Berghoff stove. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION The results of Se accumulation by muscle tissue and snail shells are in Table 1. The great variability of selenium content, especially for Helix pomatia, supposes the existence of certain mechanisms of metabolic control. Se concentration for Helix pomatia is in the range of 130-423 µg/kg depending on the geochemical characteristics of habitat, the highest being typical for Moldova Republic, known to possess high Se status. The values determined for Moldova samples of Helix pomatia, are reaching as much as 423µg/kg. Therefore, Se supplemented forage can be used to feed snails raised in farms. The meat of domestic animals provides about 40% of total dietetic Se consumption for humans (Aro and Alfthan, 1995). Observing the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for males and females 14-18 years old as well as the Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for males and females 19 years old (USA-NIH, 2009) presented also in Table 1, the meat of edible snails can represent a source of the element and should be useful for Se status correction in humans. Tab. 2 shows the content of Pb and Cd in Helix pomatia collected from different regions from Romania along with the maximum tolerable levels imposed by European Union (EU) norms. The snails collected from wilderness in the area Copşa Mică, Sibiu County presented toxic Pb levels of 1.2018 – 48.0840 mg/kg Pb, both exceeding the EU legal norms. Snails from the same area presented toxic Cd levels of 2.0273 – 3.1281 mg/kg both exceeding maximum tolerable levels as imposed by EU legal norms. The level of Cd on meat of snails raised in an edible snail farm located in Căpuşu Mic, Cluj County, Romania, is toxic, it measures 1.1498 mg/kg, while the Pb levels were just 0.0520 mg/kg, suggesting that the soil contains high levels of Cd but not Pb. In Şoroştin town, Sibiu County, an area considered to be under the contaminating influence of the non-ferrous industry from Copşa Mică, Sibiu County, Pb levels on snail’s meat were 0.0150 – 0.1090 mg/kg while Cd levels were 0.1367 – 0.3750 mg/kg, both much under the maximum tolerable levels by EU norms. 497

Tab. 1 Selenium (Se) content in meat and shells of edible terrestrial snails Helix pomatia and Eobania vermiculata Muller. Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) µg/day Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) µg/day Se of meat tissue, Se of shell,

Snail’s Area of habitat



Edible terrestrial snail Helix pomatia Bendery, Republic of Moldova Bakhchisaray region, Crimea Serpukhov district, Moscow region, Russia Klin, Moscow region, Russia 400 400 400 400 55 55 55 55 423±31 130±19 223±28 146±13 70±6 71±11 87.5±9 148±13

Edible terrestrial snail Eobania vermiculata Muller Evpatorya, Crimea 400 55 204±20 60±7

Tab. 2 Lead (Pb) and cadmium (Cd) content in meat of edible terrestrial snails Helix pomatia Lead (Pb) content (mg/kg) EU Norms Snail meat maximum probe Cadmium (Cd) content (mg/kg) EU Norms maximum Snail meat probe 1.1498 2.0273 3.1282 0.3750 0.1367

Snail’s Area of habitat

Edible Snails Farm 1.0 0.0520 1.0 Căpuşu Mic, Cluj County, Romania Wilderness Copşa Mică – Visa River shore, Sibiu 1.0 1.2018 1.0 County, Romania Wilderness 1.0 48.0840 1.0 Copşa Mică, Sibiu County, Romania Wilderness 1.0 0.1090 1.0 Şoroştin town, Sibiu County, Romania Wilderness 1.0 0.0150 1.0 Şoroştin town, Sibiu County, Romania Note: The underlined values are higher than the maximum tolerable levels by EU norms.

CONCLUSIONS Edible snails are an excellent vehicle for Se in human nutrition. The Se content can be raised by proper selecting the land designated for snail farming and the snail’s diet needs to be tailored such as to benefit of the soils contend by using plants that do accumulate Se and by using proper additives in their diet in order to supplement the Se intake by snails if that would be necessary. In the same time, in order to assure the food safety and reduce the chemical risk factor of contamination, the farmers engaged in the production of edible snails, should conduct prior soil analyses for mineral content determination and refrain from using farming 498

land with high heavy metals content such as Pb and Cd in soil. That not only the European Union prohibits the collection of snails from nature due to their ecological importance, but edible snails should not be collected for human consumption since they can represent a highrisk food product due to potential high levels of chemical contaminants. The lawmakers and the law enforcement agencies should take a stronger position in the control of snails collecting from nature practice and regulating the food processors as to accept edible snails only from farmers that are certified and not from citizens bringing snails from wilderness. The EU norm needs revision considering the fact that the edible snails can be produced with much lower Pb and Cd contents. The actual maximum limits are much too high (1.0 mg/kg on Pb and Cd) observing the results of this investigation that this paper refer to. Acknowledgments: This study has been financed in part by Vitagrom and Pacific Services Network, Inc., Glendale, California, United States of America, and by The Laboratory of Food Toxicology, Institute of Nutrition, RAMS, Moscow, Russia as a small symbol for a peaceful united world. Special thanks are directed to Chemist Nicoleta Munteanu; Chemist Carmen Hura, PhD; Eng. Ana Drumaş; Eng. Otilia Buicu; Mr. Adam Szocs; Eng. Drd. Dan Vodnar; Mihai Radu Pop, PhD of Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu; Prof. Carmen Socaciu, PhD of USAMV Cluj Napoca. REFERENCES
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