New maximum levels for pyrrolizine alkaloids

Pyrrolizidine alkaloids are secondary plant constituents that are mainly formed by plants to protect them from predators. Due to their harmful potential, especially the group of 1,2-unsaturated pyrrolizidine alkaloids is undesirable in food and feed.

With the publication of Regulation (EU) 2020/2040 amending Regulation (EC) 1881/2006, maximum levels for pyrrolizidine alkaloids in certain foodstuffs (tea, herbal tea, food supplements, pollen based food supplements, dried herbs as well as cumin and borage) were established. The maximum levels refer to the sum of 21 pyrrolizidine alkaloids and 14 pyrrolizidine alkaloids that usually co-elute with one or more of the 21 pyrrolizidine alkaloids in the analytical methods used.

The new maximum levels have been in force since 01.07.2022. Due to the long shelf life of the various product groups, a transitional period applies until 31 December 2023 for foodstuffs that were lawfully placed on the market before 01.07.2022.

Our experts from contaminant analysis have revised our existing method in the course of the new maximum levels. The method is a multi-method for the determination of pyrrolizidine alkaloids. After a sulphuric acid extraction, the pyrrolizidine alkaloids are separated from matrix components and enriched by means of a solid phase extraction. Subsequently, the eluates are analysed by HPLC-MS/MS.

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