Scientific Opinion on Pyrrolizidine alkaloids in food and feed


Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain
EFSA Journal
EFSA Journal 2011;9(11):2406 [134 pp.].
Panel Members
Jan Alexander, Diane Benford, Alan Boobis, Sandra Ceccatelli, Bruce Cottrill, Jean-Pierre Cravedi, Alessandro Di Domenico, Daniel Doerge, Eugenia Dogliotti, Lutz Edler, Peter Farmer, Metka Filipič, Johanna Fink-Gremmels, Peter Fürst, Thierry Guérin, Helle Katrine Knutsen, Miroslav Machala, Antonio Mutti, Martin Rose, Josef Schlatter and Rolaf van Leeuwen

The Panel wishes to thank the members of the Working Group on Alkaloids: Till Beuerle, Diane Benford, Leon Brimer, Bruce Cottrill, Daniel Doerge, Birgit Dusemund, Peter Farmer, Peter Fürst, Hans-Ulrich Humpf and Patrick Mulder for the preparatory work on this scientific opinion, and EFSA staff Gina Cioacata, Marco Binaglia and Stefan Fabiansson for the support provided to this scientific opinion. The CONTAM Panel acknowledges all European competent authorities and other stakeholders that provided Pyrrolizidine alkaloids occurrence data for food and feed and supported the consumption data collection for the Comprehensive European Food Consumption Database.

Opinion of the Scientific Committee/Scientific Panel
On request from
European Commission
Question Number
5 October 2011
Published in the EFSA Journal
8 November 2011
European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), Parma, Italy

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) was asked by the European Commission to deliver a scientific opinion on pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA) in food and feed. PAs are toxins exclusively biosynthesised by plants. To date, approximately 600 different PAs are known. Results for 13,280 bulk honey and 1324 retail honey samples were provided to EFSA by one Member State and 351 feed samples were provided by a second Member State. The EFSA Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM Panel) performed estimates of both acute and chronic exposure to PAs through honey for three different age groups. Although there might be other sources of PA exposure, due to lack of data the CONTAM Panel was not able to quantify dietary exposure from food other than honey. A number of PAs were identified as being of particular importance for food and feed. Based on the present knowledge of metabolism, activation, DNA adduct-formation, genotoxicity and carcinogenicity, the CONTAM Panel concluded that 1,2-unsaturated PAs may act as genotoxic carcinogens in humans. Therefore, the CONTAM Panel decided to apply the Margin of Exposure (MOE) approach. A benchmark dose lower confidence limit for a 10 % excess cancer risk (BMDL10) of 70 µg/kg b.w. per day for induction of liver haemangiosarcomas by lasiocarpine in male rats was calculated as the reference point for comparison with the estimated dietary exposure. The CONTAM Panel concluded that there is a possible health concern for those toddlers and children who are high consumers of honey. There is generally a low risk of PA poisoning in livestock and companion animals in the EU as most PA poisonings reported recently are due to accidental exposure.

pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA), origin, chemistry, analysis, exposure, risk assessment, margin of exposure (MOE)
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