The concerning food safety issue of pyrrolizidine alkaloids: An overview
Background In the last years, several food alerts have identified high levels of pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) in a wide variety of food products, highlighting their occurrence as a concerning food safety issue. Scope and approach Currently, there is a call to collect new data on the occurrence of PAs in food matrices that, to date, have been less studied, as well as to develop sensitive and potent analytical methods that enable the determination of these compounds at very low concentration levels, and evaluate the effect of food processing on the stability of these contaminants. Accordingly, this review gives an overview about PAs, regarding general aspects such as their chemical structure, classification, toxicity, risk assessment, occurrence in food, contamination paths and effect of food processing. Likewise, the most relevant analytical procedures for their determination in different food products of the last 10 years (2010–2020) are included. Key findings and conclusions PAs exhibit developmental toxicity and have shown to be hepatotoxic, pneumotoxic, genotoxic and carcinogenic. For this reason, it is important to control their occurrence in food through the development of sensitive, selective and environmentally friendly analytical methods that can be properly validated to achieve a correct identification and quantification of these compounds. In the last decade, many efforts have been made to address this food safety issue and maximum concentration limits have been regulated for food products likely to be contaminated with these alkaloids. However, further investigation is required regarding food processing and dilution factors to achieve a reliable assessment of the real intake of these alkaloids by the population and improve the risk management of these natural contaminants.
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