Comprehensive investigation and risk study on pyrrolizidine alkaloid contamination in Chinese retail honey

Yisheng He, Lin Zhu, Jiang Ma, Lailai Wong, Zhongzhen Zhao, Yang Ye, Peter P. Fu, Ge Lin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) are common phytotoxins. We performed the first comprehensive investigation on PA contamination in Chinese honeys. LC-MS analysis revealed that 58% of 255 honey samples purchased from 17 regions across Mainland China and Taiwan contained PAs with total content ranging over 0.2–281.1 μg/kg. Monocrotaline (from Crotalaria spp), a PA never found in honey in other regions, together with echimidine (Echium plantagineum) and lycopsamine (from Senecio spp.), were three predominant PAs in PA-contaminated Chinese honeys. Further, PAs present in honeys were found to have geographically distinct pattern, indicating possible control of such contamination in future honey production. Moreover, we proposed a new risk estimation approach, which considered both content and toxic potency of individual PAs in honeys, and found that 12% of the PA-contaminated Chinese honeys tested might pose potential health risk. This study revealed a high prevalence and potential health risk of PA contamination in Chinese honeys.

Original languageEnglish
Article number115542
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

User-Defined Keywords

  • Chinese honey
  • Food safety
  • LC-MS analysis
  • Pyrrolizidine alkaloids
  • Risk assessment


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