Carry-over of pyrrolizidine alkaloids from feed to milk in dairy cows

L.A.P. Hoogenboom, P.P.J. Mulder, M.J. Zeilmaker, H.J. van den Top, G.J. Remmelink, E.A. Brandon, M. Klijnstra, G.A.L. Meijer, R. Schothorst, H.J. van Egmond

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66 Citations (Scopus)


Pyrrolizidine alkaloids are toxins present in many plants belonging to the families of Asteraceae, Boraginaceae and Fabaceae. Particularly notorious are pyrrolizidine alkaloids present in ragwort species (Senecio), which are held responsible for hepatic disease in horses and cows and may lead to the death of the affected animals. In addition, these compounds may be transferred to edible products of animal origin and as such be a threat for the health of consumers. To investigate the possible transfer of pyrrolizidine alkaloids from contaminated feed to milk, cows were put on a ration for 3 weeks with increasing amounts (50-200 g day-1) of dried ragwort. Milk was collected and sampled twice a day; faeces and urine twice a week. For milk, a dose-related appearance of pyrrolizidine alkaloids was found. Jacoline was the major component in milk despite being a minor component in the ragwort material. Practically no N-oxides were observed in milk, notwithstanding the fact that they constituted over 80% of the pyrrolizidine alkaloids in ragwort. The overall carry-over of the pyrrolizidine alkaloids was estimated to be only around 0.1%, but for jacoline 4%. Notwithstanding the low overall carry-over, this may be relevant for consumer health considering the genotoxic and carcinogenic properties demonstrated for some of these compounds. Analysis of the faeces and urine samples indicated that substantial metabolism of pyrrolizidine alkaloids is taking place. The toxicity and potential transfer of metabolites to milk is unknown and remains to be investigated.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)359-372
JournalFood Additives & Contaminants. Pt. A, Chemistry, Analysis, Control, Exposure & Risk Assessment
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • n-oxide
  • senecionine
  • adonifoline
  • metabolites
  • extraction
  • excretion
  • vulgaris
  • rumen
  • honey
  • rat

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