Ergot alkaloids in food and feed


Ergot alkaloids (EAs), origin, chemistry, analysis, exposure, risk assessment, health-based guidance value
First published in the EFSA Journal
19 July 2012
28 June 2012
Scientific Opinion

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) was asked by the European Commission to deliver a scientific opinion on ergot alkaloids (EAs) in food and feed. EAs are produced by several members within the fungal orders of Hypocreales and Eurotiales. In Europe, Claviceps purpurea is the most widespread Claviceps species within the Hypocreales. A total of 20 558 analytical results for EAs in 1 716 food, 496 feed and 67 unprocessed grain samples were considered in this opinion. Based on the EAs identified in sclerotia of C. purpurea, and recent literature data, the EFSA Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM Panel) based its risk assessment on the main C. purpurea EAs, namely ergometrine, ergotamine, ergosine, ergocristine, ergocryptine (which is a mixture of α- and β- isomers), ergocornine, and the corresponding –inine epimers. The CONTAM Panel performed estimates of both chronic and acute exposure for various age groups across European countries. A BMDL10 of 0.33 mg/kg b.w. per day was calculated for the incidence of tail muscular atrophy in a 13-week rat feeding study of ergotamine. This effect was considered representative of the vasoconstrictive effects of EAs and provided a suitable reference point for establishment of a group acute reference dose of 1 μg/kg body weight (b.w.) and a group tolerable daily intake of 0.6 μg/kg b.w. per day. The Panel concluded that whilst the available data do not indicate a concern for any population subgroup, the dietary exposure estimates relate to a limited number of food groups and a possible unknown contribution from other foods cannot be discounted. Estimates of exposure for livestock based on example diets and levels of EAs in cereal grains reported suggest that under normal conditions the risk of toxicosis is low.

Panel members at the time of adoption
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
Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain
contam [at]
EFSA Journal 2012;10(7):2798 [158 pp.].
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