HomeSafetyPFAS, furans, glycoalkaloids, Alternaria. The European Commission 'recommends' rather than prohibits

PFAS, furans, glycoalkaloids, Alternaria. The European Commission 'recommends' rather than prohibits

PFAS, furans, glycoalkaloids, Alternaria there are four categories of food contaminants that the European Commission 'recommends' to monitor rather than prohibit, although they are very widespread and dangerous for public health (1,2,3,4).

Food safety, from words to deeds

Food safety is guaranteed, in theory, by a series of EU regulations such as General Food Law (EC regulation 178/02), Hygiene package, (EC reg. 852,853 / 04 and subsequent), Official Controls Regulation (EU reg. 2017/625).

The European Commission however, it persists in omitting the necessary safeguard measures in the most serious cases, thus giving way, once again, to the interests of the industrial sector. As already reported in the cases of acrylamide, bisphenol A (BPA free), mycotoxins, 3-MCPD and glycidyl esters.

In the following cases, the Brussels executive therefore limits itself to requesting the food industries to collect and transmit to EFSA the analytical data on the concentrations of toxic substances in the various food categories.

1) Furans

The furans and alkyl furans are process contaminants that are formed in some foods due to the heat treatments to which they are subjected. Among the most representative are methylfurans, 2-methylfuran, 3-methylfuran and 2,5-dimethylfuran primarily.

1.1) Furani, EFSA opinion

EFSA (2017) indicated that:

  • levels of exposure to furans and alkyl furans are of concern,
  • methylfurans can add up and significantly increase exposure.

Coffee , baby food in jars, ready-made soups, chips, fruit juices, breakfast cereals, biscuits, cracker and crusty bread are the most contaminated foods. Waiting for more data on methylfurans. (5)

1.2) EU Recommendation 2022/495

Furan, 2-methylfuran and 3-methylfuran must be monitored in hazardous foods, taking care to use representative samples. For this purpose, the sampling procedures referred to in reg. CE 333/2007, Annex, part B. (6) Other furans, 'if possible', should also be monitored.

Analyzes of the major furans in coffee and potted baby food should meet the criteria outlined in the recommendation. Other foods should employ a method that is however suitable to meet these criteria, with a limit of quantification (LoQ) <5 μg / kg and control procedures that ensure the reliability of the results.

2) Toxins of Alternaria

The genre Alternaria includes ubiquitous molds that can develop both on food and on other types of environments. These molds produce toxins that are very dangerous for health (cyto- and genotoxicity, pro-inflammation, endocrine interference, microbiota dysbiosis). And yet, they still have no legal limitations. (7)

2.1) Alternaria, EFSA assessment

The latest evaluation of EFSA (2011) already highlights how exposure to the main toxins (alternariol, alternariol monomethyl-ether, tenuazonic acid) exceeds the toxicological alarm threshold. The Authority therefore recommended collecting data on several foods most at risk and implementing more sensitive methods. (8)

Prevent and reduce the contamination of food by gender toxins Alternaria it is possible, but it is necessary to adopt good agricultural and manufacturing practices, storage and transport conditions. In any case, it is useful to understand the factors that determine the highest levels of toxins in food, in order to adopt precise and timely reduction and prevention strategies.

2.1) EU Recommendation 2022/553

Brussels proposes 'indicative levels' - rather than safety levels, upon exceeding which it would be necessary to investigate the factors that determined their presence and
the effects of transformation processes.
The main foods to be monitored are processed tomato products, paprika powder, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds and oil, nuts, dried figs and cereal-based foods for infants and young children.

The sampling procedures should follow the reg. CE 401/06, with LOQ not exceeding 2 μg / kg in cereal-based foods for infants and young children, 4 μg / kg in other foods. LOQ not exceeding 20 μg / kg, on the other hand, for the determination of tenuazonic acid in all foods. And the analyzes should be extended, 'where possible', not only to the three main toxins but also to others of the kind Alternaria.

3) Glicoalkaloids from potatoes and derivatives

The glycoalkaloids they are secondary metabolites that accumulate in potatoes. In the 'green phase', as regards the tubers, or in the aerial parts of the plant. They are toxic and can cause intestinal disorders, vomiting, fever, diarrhea, neurological problems, with possible lethal effects. The different stages of production, exposure to the sun (yes, you can learn it), favor their development. And cooking does not reduce its presence or inhibit its toxicity. (9)

3.1) Glicoalkaloids, the EFSA opinion

The most important toxins are α-solanine and α-caconine, and EFSA (2020) noted as the minimum threshold for observing a detrimental effect (Lowest-observed-adverse-effect level, LOAEL) - equal to 1 mg / day of total glycoalkaloids / kg body weight - is often reached and exceeded, with health concerns. (10)

Concentration glycoalkaloids in potato tubers must therefore be reduced by adopting good agricultural and manufacturing practices. With particular regard, among other things, to the conditions of storage and transport.

3.2) EU Recommendation 2022/561

Member States and operators of the food industry should monitor α-solanine and α-caconine in potatoes and potato products. If possible, degradation products (β- and γ- solanine, caconine, aglycone solanidine), in particular in processed potato products, with sampling and analysis methods (LOQ between 1 and 5 mg / kg maximum) suggested.

Please note: should be dedicated to:

  • identify the factors leading to levels above the indicative level of 100 mg / kg as the sum of α-solanine and α-caconine, in potatoes and processed potato products,
  • record the variety and size of the potatoes, whether they are new or canning potatoes (i.e. ripe and / or stored for a longer period), the sampling, peeling and method stage.


The PFAS - exterminated group of perfluoroalkyl substances known as'forever chemicals'- are widely used in all industrial and consumer products, including materials in contact with food (MOCA), as seen.

Environmental contamination planetary from PFAS, now extended as well rainwater, may have an impact on the agri-food chain. It is therefore necessary to control the sources of dietary exposure already starting from soils, feed, agricultural and watering waters.

4.1) PFAS, EFSA assessment

The EFSA assessment (2020) focused on the main molecules, in the large group of 'forever chemicals'. PFOS, PFOA and their salts are present at the highest concentrations both in food and in humans exposed to these almost inevitable contaminants.

The European Authority for Food Safety it also considered PFNA and PFHxS, on the basis of the data collected in accordance with Recommendation 2010/161 / EU. Noting how the exposure of part of the European population exceeds the tolerable weekly dose. (11)

4.2) PFAS, EU recommendation 2022/1431

Monitoring of PFAS main ones should be integrated with that of similar substances but with a different alkyl chain, so-called emerging PFAS, which can be present in food, drinking water and / or human serum.

Foods to be analyzed (in the edible parts only) should include fruit, vegetables, starchy roots and tubers, seaweed, cereals, nuts, oilseeds, food for infants and young children, food of animal origin, soft drinks, wine and beer.

We must consider both primary agricultural products, feed and food made from the same batch, as well as transformation factors. Always specifying the characteristics of processes and products.

4.3) PFAS, sampling and analysis

The samplings should follow the procedures described in reg. EU 2022/1428 and the analyzes in accordance with reg. EU 2017/625, article 34. The methods of analysis must have LOQs lower than or equal to those indicated for the different PFAS, 'where possible'.

The causes of contamination should be investigated where indicative levels are exceeded:

a) 0,010 μg / kg for PFOS, 0,010 μg / kg for PFOA, 0,005 μg / kg for PFNA and 0,015 μg / kg for PFHxS in fruit, vegetables (except wild mushrooms), amylaceous roots and tubers,
b) 1,5 μg / kg for PFOS, 0,010 μg / kg for PFOA, 0,005 μg / kg for PFNA and 0,015 μg / kg for PFHxS in wild mushrooms,
c) 0,020 μg / kg for PFOS, 0,010 μg / kg for PFOA, 0,050 μg / kg for PFNA and 0,060 μg / kg for PFHxS in milk,
d) 0,050 μg / kg for PFOS, 0,050 μg / kg for PFOA, 0,050 μg / kg for PFNA and 0,050 μg / kg for PFHxS in baby food.

5) Monitoring and sharing of data

The results of the monitoring activities performed by food business operators and Member States should be sent to EFSA by 30 June each year. Based on the guidelines on standardized sample description (SSD) for food and feed and other specific information requirements of the Authority. (12)

The number of workshops accredited and provided with accredited methods for the analysis of the contaminants in question on food and feed is still rather low. The commitment of these laboratories is therefore required to validate the necessary analytical methods and increase the capacity of screening methods of contaminants at European level.

6) Provisional conclusions

Over the course of 2022 the European Commission - in agreement with the Member States, in the PAFF Committee (Plants, Animals, Food and Feed) - has established various objectives in terms of monitoring contaminants in food chains. Considering both a wide variety of food matrices and a series of contaminants so far little (or not at all) considered, in view of the collection of further data on their trophic diffusion.

Chemical safety of food and materials in contact with food (MOCA) - as most recently found in Swiss study (Biedermann et al., 2022) on the migration of toxic chemicals from the seals of glass jars to oily foods - however, remains one of the most serious unresolved gaps, in the EU as elsewhere.

Dario Dongo and Andrea Adelmo Della Penna


(1) Commission Recommendation (EU) 2022/495 of 25.3.22, concerning the monitoring of the presence of furan and alkyl furans in food
(2) Commission Recommendation (EU) 2022/553 of 5.4.22, concerning the monitoring of the presence of Alternaria toxins in food
(3) Commission Recommendation (EU) 2022/561 of 6.4.22, relating to the monitoring of the presence of glycoalkaloids in potatoes and potato products
(4) Commission Recommendation (EU) 2022/1431 of 24.8.22, concerning the monitoring of perfluoroalkyl substances in food
(5) EFSA CONTAM Panel (2017). Risks for public health related to the presence of furan and methylfurans in food. EFSA Journal 15 (10): 5005
(6) EC Reg. 333/07, concerning the methods of sampling and analysis for the official control of the levels of lead, cadmium, mercury, inorganic tin, 3-MCPD and benzo (a) pyrene in foodstuffs. Consolidated text at 19.5.21
(7) Alchinger et al. (2021). Alternaria toxins — Still emerging? Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety. 20 (5): 4390-4406
(8) EFSA CONTAM Panel (2011). Scientific Opinion on the risks for animal and public health related to the presence of Alternaria toxins in feed and food. EFSA Journal 9 (10): 2407
(9) Omayio et al. (2016). A Review of Occurrence of Glycoalkaloids in Potato and Potato Products. Curr. Res. Nutr. Food Sci. 4 (3)
(10) EFSA CONTAM Panel (2020). Risk assessment of glycoalkaloids in feed and food, in particular in potatoes and potato-derived products. EFSA Journal 18 (8): e0622
(11) EFSA Contam Panel (2020). Risk to human health related to the presence of perfluoroalkyl substances in food. EFSA Journal 18 (9): 6223
(12) EFSA (2021). Call for continuous collection of chemical contaminants occurrence data in food and feed.

+ posts

Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.

+ posts

Graduated in Food Technologies and Biotechnologies, qualified food technologist, he follows the research and development area. With particular regard to European research projects (in Horizon 2020, PRIMA) where the FARE division of WIISE Srl, a benefit company, participates.

Related Articles

Latest Articles

Recent Commenti

Translate »