TROPAL - Occurrence of tropane alkaloids in foodstuffs and risks for the Belgian consumer

Last updated on 13-10-2023 by Svetlana Malysheva
Project duration:
October 1, 2019
June 30, 2021

In short

Tropane alkaloids (TAs) are molecules that naturally occur in certain plant families (e.g., Solanaceae or nightshades) and some are used for medicinal purposes. Due to co-harvest of weeds with the crops, TAs can eventually end up in food. Since these molecules can have different toxicological effects on humans, contamination of food needs to be assessed. With this project, we determine the exposure to TAs and risks for the Belgian population. Next to this, we want to see whether or not agricultural factors have an effect on food contamination with TAs. 

Project description

The TROPAL project collects representative data on the occurrence of tropane alkaloids (TAs) in food products available on the Belgian market. Therefore, we develop a new sensitive liquid chromatography – tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) method  for quantification of TAs in a variety of food matrices. 
With the acquired data, we are able to cover the current data gap on the occurrence of TAs in food and we are able to evaluate the risks associated with the intake of contaminated food by the Belgian population. 

In the framework of this project, a relationship between agricultural factors and TA contamination is studied to specify possible influential factors. This gives us a better understanding of how agricultural practices can have an effect on the presence and the levels of TAs in food, and with this on human health. 


In the TROPAL project, two UHPLC-MS/MS analytical methods were developed and validated to allow a simple and quick quantification of TAs atropine and scopolamine in nine food matrices with the limits of quantification ranging from 0.5 to 2.5 µg/kg. A total of 538 food samples were collected on the Belgian market according to a well-designed representative sampling plan. Results showed that the highest frequency of occurrence of atropine and scopolamine was observed in food supplements followed by spices and grain products. Atropine showed the highest occurrence and a higher level in positive samples in comparison to scopolamine. The highest mean and P95 acute dietary exposure to the individual TAs, atropine and scopolamine, was found in children. Among other tools, a farmers’ survey was used to study the relationship between agricultural factors and TA contamination of food. The results of this survey can be found in PDF icon the infographic on Datura in Belgium

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