Dietary exposure of the Belgian population (adults and children) to pyrrolizidine alkaloids [PASFOOD]

Last updated on 20-3-2019 by Sébastien Daems

In short

Pyrrolizidine alkaloids are naturally occurring compounds produced by a wide variety of plants. They can be transferred in food of plant or animal origin and are toxic to humans in low doses. No data are available for food sold in Europe, so the project will allow information to be provided to the authorities for establishing a standard for these compounds where appropriate.

Project summary

Pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) are secondary metabolites produced exclusively by plants, they are potentially transferable in human food and are toxic in very small doses. The purpose of this project is to provide data on the presence of PAs in specific food products, thereby enabling an assessment of the exposure of the Belgian adult and infant population, based on the latest consumption data. The research will have the following objectives:

  • Development and validation of analytical methods for dosing and confirming the presence of 30 pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs and N-oxides) in various food matrices, such as honey, milk, meat, honey based biscuits and sweets, tea (raw and infused) and spices. A specific extraction and purification method has been developed for each food matrix. The extremely low quantification limits required by the project (from 0.01 ng/g of milk to 1 ng/g of honey) are attained
  • Preparation of a sampling plan, taking into account the acquisition of detailed information about the products, for the purpose of identifying the sources of contamination for honey, as well as the presence of a potential seasonal effect on the levels measured in milk. The number of matrices and samples has been increased considerably in order to obtain a picture, as representative as possible, of the PA-contaminated foodstuffs available on the Belgian market
  • Performing analyses using the validated methods in order to obtain the PA concentrations, and communication of the results. Routine analyses are finalised for honey (over 500 samples), milk (over 100 samples of various animal origins), raw tea (over 150 samples), honey biscuits (40 samples), honey and plant sweets (13 samples). By the end of the project, samples of meat, pre-packaged salads, and cheese will also have been analysed
  • Exposure calculations based on consumption data of the Belgian population after 2014
  • Assessment of the data obtained: determination of populations at risk, comparison of the results with previously published data and drafting of recommendations

follow up project:  PASHERBS – Pyrrolizidine alkaloids in herbs and related foodstuffs

Associated Health Topics

Associated publications

QR code

QR code for this page URL