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R-Biopharm Rhône helps make Liquorice safer

R-Biopharm Rhône, the pioneering Scottish science company, has moved to the forefront of EU attempts to make some of Britain's favourite sweets as safe as they can possibly be.

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Is black liqorice bad for you?

R-Biopharm Rhône, the pioneering Scottish science company, has moved to the forefront of EU attempts to make some of Britain’s favourite sweets as safe as they can possibly be.

Its initiative comes in the wake of a case which was revealed in Worcester recently (April) in which a pensioner who ate too many of the brightly coloured sweets was paralysed for more than a year.

Doctors believe the antibodies the man produced to fight infection may have, in turn, triggered the nerve condition Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

In another case a few years ago, a 56-year-old woman from Yorkshire was admitted to hospital after overdosing on liquorice. The woman went into muscle failure, a potentially fatal condition, after eating too much Pontefract Cake.

And NHS guidelines say that some medical journals have linked black liquorice to health problems in people over 40.

Black liquorice contains the compound glycyrrhizin, which is the sweetening compound taken from liquorice root. Glycyrrhizin can cause potassium levels in the body to fall. When that happens, some people experience abnormal heart rhythms, as well as high blood pressure, oedema (swelling), lethargy and heart failure.

At the moment, the EU has legislation in place for testing liquorice, but it only relates to mycotoxins, which are found in fungal matter and which can have a devastating impact on the human body. It is particularly concerned with ochratoxin, which causes kidney cancer.

It is particularly difficult to analyse liquorice, since it is heavily pigmented and colour changes are an important part of the screening process. However, R-Biopharm Rhône has developed a successful test kit for the detection of ochratoxin A and it is now part of an EU drive to harmonise methods across the union.

The liquorice test is one of the products from the Glasgow-based company’s extensive portfolio. The company has also recently developed a screening mechanism to help health and food standards authorities identify a potentially harmful antibiotic in wine and foodstuffs in the UK.

Product Manager Claire Milligan said: “Food safety is a vitally important issue and the industry has to be able to be sure that products which people will consume are as safe as it is possible to make them.

“R-Biopharm Rhône’s testing procedures are continually evolving and operate at high levels of sensitivity. Our test kits detect parts per billion and work is going on towards parts per trillion.”

For further information, contact Claire Milligan, Global Product Manager, R-Biopharm Rhône Ltd. on+44 (0) 141 945 2924 Email: or visit


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