Plant toxins in teas and herbal teas could be health risk

| July 20, 2013

The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) has announced that levels of pyrrolizidine alkaloids – naturally produced toxic substances in plants – found in some teas and herbal teas are “too high and should possibly be reduced.”

The finding has come out of a BfR research project to study the determination of these substances in food and feed, which included testing of a range of off-the-shelf tea products, including fennel, camomile, peppermint, nettle and melissa teas.

Some pyrrolizidine alkaloids are known to be genotoxic carcinogens in animals and their presence in foods is therefore undesirable. The BfR research found unexpectedly high levels in some teas, but there was considerable variation between samples, even between teas of the same type.

The concentrations present are not considered to present an immediate health risk over short periods of consumption, but long-term consumption of teas containing high and medium levels of the toxins could be a risk to children and pregnant women.

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