Researchers at GQAA-MAF URJC were able to verify the presence of significant levels of pyrrolizidine alkaloids in 22 commercial samples of oregano, as well as tropane alkaloids in some gluten-free flours and seeds such as buckwheat, sorghum, millet and teff
Natural toxins are an important group of organic contaminants that often occur in plant foods. Among these toxins are some nitrogenous alkaloids that are synthesized as secondary metabolites by many plants, i.e., those that generally function as a defense mechanism against adverse weather conditions, predator infestation, or plant diseases.
Of all the known families of alkaloids, these are tropanics, pyrrolizidines and opiates In recent years, they have received increasing interest as their relevant presence in many products used in human and animal nutrition has been discovered.
Some target food groups are aromatic herbs and gluten-free products.
Jimson weed, mandrake, belladonna, borage or senecio are some alkaloid-producing plants They usually grow as weeds among the crops of many cereals, legumes, aromatic herbs and teas. Thanks to analytical methods developed by the Research Group for Analytical Chemistry Applied to the Environment, Food and Drugs (GQAA-MAF), it was possible to verify the presence of significant levels of pyrrolizidine alkaloids in 22 commercial oregano samples, as well as tropane alkaloids. in some gluten-free flours and seeds, such as buckwheat, sorghum, millet and teff.
These studies were recently published in two scientific articles in the journal Foods.
In addition, some of these pyrrolizidine alkaloids are classified as potentially carcinogenic to humans, and sample preparation techniques are needed to improve the selectivity and sensitivity of detection of these alkaloids in food products. “The use of mesostructured silica and micropreparative techniques is proving to be a great advance, as they have enabled the development of new methods with lower limits of quantification, faster and more environmentally friendly,” explains Dr. Sierra, Head of GQAA-MAF.
The GQAA-MAF group is currently working on the development of analytical methods for this group of pollutants within the EVALKALIM project. “It is necessary to continue collecting data on its presence in commercial foods in order to estimate the actual intake of the same amount in the population and to find more effective solutions to reduce it,” emphasizes Dr. Sierra.