Scientific Opinion on the risks for animal and public health related to the presence of Alternaria toxins in feed and food

Mycotoxins, Alternaria toxins, food, feed, analysis, occurrence, dietary exposure, animal exposure, risk assessment, toxicity
First published in the EFSA Journal
26 October 2011
6 October 2011
Scientific Opinion


The European Commission asked the European Food Safety Authority to review the safety of Alternaria toxins in food and feed. In addition to causing plant diseases on many crops such as cereals, oilseeds, tomatoes, apples and olives, some of these toxins are genotoxic in vitro and/or fetotoxic in rats. This opinion deals with alternariol, alternariol monomethyl ether, tenuazonic acid, iso-tenuazonic acid, altertoxins, tentoxin, altenuene and AAL-toxins (Alternaria alternata f. sp. lycopersici toxins). Two Member States provided 11,730 occurrence results in food and also data published in the scientific literature were considered. Generally these toxins were found in grains and grain-based products, tomato and tomato products, sunflower seeds and sunflower oil, fruits and fruit products, and beer and wine. The feed occurrence data (1150 results) were collected from the literature only. The knowledge on toxic effects of Alternaria toxins on farm and companion animals and occurrence data in feed were insufficient to assess the health risk for different species. For chicken there are indications that alternariol represents a health risk but it cannot be excluded that tenuazonic acid could also be of concern. Considering: (1) there are few or no relevant toxicity data on Alternaria toxins, (2) the chemical structure of several of them is known, (3) dietary exposure data exist for some of them, the Panel on Contaminants in the food chain used the threshold of toxicological concern (TTC) approach to assess the relative level of concern for dietary exposure of humans to these mycotoxins. For the genotoxic Alternaria toxins, alternariol and alternariol monomethyl ether, the estimated chronic dietary exposure exceeded the relevant TTC value indicating a need for additional toxicity data. The dietary exposure estimates for non-genotoxic tentoxin and tenuazonic acid are lower than the relevant TTC value and are considered unlikely to be a human health concern.

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, Josef Schlatter, Martin Rose and Rolaf van Leeuwen
Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain
contam [at]
EFSA Journal 2011;9(10):2407
Question Number
On request from
European Commission