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Kaltner, Florian; Kukula, Verena and Gottschalk, Christoph (2020): Screening of food supplements for toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids. In: Journal of Consumer Protection and Food Safety, Vol. 15: pp. 237-243 [PDF, 723kB]


Pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA) and PA-N-oxides (PANO) are a group of more than 660 secondary plant metabolites with hepatotoxic, carcinogenic and mutagenic effects in animals and humans. The phytotoxins can enter the food chain by transfer of PA/PANO between plants via the soil, unintended co-harvesting of PA/PANO-producing weeds, as well as by honeybees collecting pollen and nectar of these plants. Thus, bee- and plant-based products, e.g. (herbal) teas, spices and culinary herbs were identified to be a main source of consumers’ exposure to PA/PANO. Consequently, food supplements based on those ingredients may as well be contaminated with PA/PANO, but so far there are only very few studies available on this topic. Therefore, the current study investigated 50 herbal and bee product-based food supplements available in German retail pharmacies, drugstores, and online on the occurrence of 44 PA/PANO. In total, 19 samples contained PA/PANO with sum contents ranging from 0.1 to 105.1 ng/g in solid samples and from 0.03 to 2.20 ng/mL in liquid preparations. Considering the recommended daily consumption, the sum contents were of no or little concern for the health risk of adults, whereas in case of children the contents of singular samples could significantly contribute to the overall PA/PANO exposure.

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