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Food Safety Focus (126th Issue, January 2017) – Food Incident Highlight

Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids in Food

The Centre for Food Safety has conducted a risk assessments study to assess the health risks of pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) in food.

Certain PAs are hepatotoxic and genotoxic substances found naturally in many plant species. Overseas studies showed that humans could be exposed to PAs through grains or grain products, honey, tea, milk, eggs, offal commonly as a result of contamination of crops that were used as food and feed with wild weeds.

The results of this study showed that the overall dietary exposure to PAs of the local general population was low and unlikely to cause health concern, though some samples of certain specific teas (e.g. rooibos) and dried spices (e.g. cumin seeds and oregano) were found to contain higher levels of PAs.

The findings did not provide sufficient justifications to warrant changes to the basic dietary advice on healthy eating. The public is advised to maintain a balanced and varied diet.