Characterization and Lifetime Dietary Risk Assessment of Eighteen Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids and Pyrrolizidine Alkaloid N-Oxides in New Zealand Honey

Toxins (Basel). 2021 Nov 26;13(12):843. doi: 10.3390/toxins13120843.


Pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) are a large group of botanical toxins of concern, as they are considered genotoxic carcinogens, with long-term dietary exposure presenting an elevated risk of liver cancer. PAs can contaminate honey through honeybees visiting the flowers of PA-containing plant species. A program of monitoring New Zealand honey has been undertaken over several years to build a comprehensive dataset on the concentration, regional and seasonal distribution, and botanical origin of 18 PAs and PA N-oxides. A bespoke probabilistic exposure model has then been used to assess the averaged lifetime dietary risk to honey consumers, with exposures at each percentile of the model characterized for risk using a margin of exposure from the Joint World Health Organization and United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) Benchmark Dose. Survey findings identify the typical PA types for New Zealand honey as lycopsamine, echimidine, retrorsine and senecionine. Regional and seasonal variation is evident in the types and levels of total PAs, linked to the ranges and flowering times of certain plants. Over a lifetime basis, the average exposure an individual will receive through honey consumption is considered within tolerable levels, although there are uncertainties over high and brand-loyal consumers, and other dietary contributors. An average lifetime risk to the general population from PAs in honey is not expected. However, given the uncertainties in the assessment, risk management approaches to limit or reduce exposures through honey are still of value.

PMID:34941681 | DOI:10.3390/toxins13120843


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