Risk assessment for pyrrolizidine alkaloids detected in (herbal) teas and plant food supplements

Lu Chen*, Patrick P.J. Mulder, Jochem Louisse, Ad Peijnenburg, Sebas Wesseling, Ivonne M.C.M. Rietjens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

55 Citations (Scopus)


Pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) are plant metabolites present in some botanical preparations, with especially 1,2-unsaturated PAs being of concern because they are genotoxic carcinogens. This study presents an overview of tumour data on PAs and points of departure (PODs) derived from them, corroborating that the BMDL10 for lasiocarpine represents a conservative POD for risk assessment. A risk assessment using this BMDL10 and mean levels of PAs reported in literature for (herbal) teas, indicates that consumption of one cup of tea a day would result in MOE values lower than 10 000 for several types of (herbal) teas, indicating a priority for risk management for these products A refined risk assessment using interim relative potency (REP) factors showed that based on the mean PA levels, 7(54%) of 13 types of (herbal) teas and 1 (14%) of 7 types of plant food supplements (PFS) resulted in MOE values lower than 10 000, indicating a priority for risk management also for these products in particular. This includes both preparations containing PA-producing and non-PA-producing plants. Our study provides insight in the current state-of-the art and limitations in the risk assessment of PA-containing food products, especially (herbal) teas and PFS, indicating that PAs in food presents a field of interest for current and future risk management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)292-302
JournalRegulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • (Herbal) teas
  • BMDL
  • MOE
  • Plant food supplements
  • Pyrrolizidine alkaloids
  • REP
  • Risk assessment
  • T10
  • T25


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