Pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) are natural toxins occurring in a wide variety of plants, including herbs. When excessive amounts are ingested, these toxins are harmful to humans because PAs are carcinogenic and may cause severe liver damage. Commissioned by the NVWA, RIVM investigated whether the limit value (1 microgramme per kilo) is still adequate. This is indeed the case for herbal teas and food supplements containing herbs.
The Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) has investigated whether the limit value of 1 microgramme per kilo is still in accordance with the latest scientific insights. This is indeed the case for herbal teas and food supplements containing herbs. From a scientific point of view, a slightly less strict limit value (5 microgrammes per kilo) would be even possible. However, because PAs are genotoxic carcinogens, it is advisable to minimize exposure to these toxins. The Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) advises to maintain the current limit value of 1 microgramme per kilo.
In addition to herbal teas and food supplements containing herbs, the limit value also applies to other food products and beverages containing herbs or herbal extracts, such as soft drinks or sweets containing herbal extracts. The precise composition and consumption levels of these ‘other herbal preparations’ are unknown, making it impossible at this time to draw any conclusions on adjusting the limit value for these types of products.