In 2011, EFSA evaluated pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) in food and feed. As 1,2-unsaturated PAs may act as genotoxic carcinogens in humans, it considered it inappropriate to derive an acceptable daily intake. Instead, EFSA used a margin of exposure (MOE) approach against a reference point (RP) of 70 μg/kg bw/day to conclude that there was a possible health concern for children who were high consumers of honey. In the current assessment EFSA has reconsidered the health risks of PAs in honey, but has also evaluated tea, herbal infusions and food supplements. Based on a reassessment of rodent carcinogenicity studies and revised guidelines for benchmark dose modelling, a new RP of 237 μg/kg bw/day was established for assessing the carcinogenic risks of PAs. This again raised possible concerns for human health, particularly in high consumers of tea and herbal infusions. It was also noted that consumption of food supplements derived from PA-producing plants may result in exposure levels associated with acute or short-term toxicity. Thus, continued monitoring in food and feed is needed (the 17 most relevant PAs were identified), and further work is required to identify the toxic and carcinogenic potency of the PAs commonly found in food.

European Food Safety Authority (2017). Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM). Risks for human health related to the presence of pyrrolizidine alkaloids in honey, tea, herbal infusions and food supplements.


The above items were taken from the September 2017 issue of Toxicology and Regulatory News which is sent automatically to members of bibra.

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