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What Are the Dangers of Detergent on Food?

Daniel Westlake

Food can be tainted by a number of different things in the kitchen, one of which is detergent. Detergents can cause a number negative effects if ingested.

Detergents can cause health problems if ingested.

Detergent on food can affect people of different ages in different ways, so it is important to know what the symptoms associated with detergent ingestion are so they can be identified when they are occurring.


According to Mamashealth.com, dishwasher detergents are the number one cause of household poisoning. Both liquid and powder detergents can sometimes remain on dishes and end up on plates that serve food. This detergent can then be absorbed into food served on the plates or dishes, poisoning the people who eat it. This occurs even more quickly if the food served on the dish is hot, which allows the detergent to absorb into the food even more quickly. Dishes taken from the dishwasher should be inspected for residual detergent, and washed off and dried again if necessary.

Accumulation Side Effects

In small doses, detergents can slowly poison your body over time, but so slowly that you may not notice it initially. The chlorine from many of these detergents can accumulate in your body, slowing liver function and causing the skin and eyes to begin to yellow. Freckles may begin to occur more on the skin and the body may absorb ingested metals more easily like cadmium, for example, which will ultimately cause blood poisoning if present in the body in large amounts. It takes a number of years of constant ingestion to create these serious effects, but any amount of poisoning is not healthy.

Pet Poisoning

If pet food bowls are washed in the dishwasher and have detergent residue on them, a pet can be poisoned the exact same way people can be poisoned. However, these side effects and damage to a pet's liver are much more severe, as their livers are smaller and not able to process or store a variety of chemicals like the human liver. A pet vomiting or not wanting to eat its food may be a good indication that there is an excess of dishwasher detergent on your dishware. This may mean there is something wrong with your dishwasher itself--it may not be distributing detergent properly.