Contamination of hepatotoxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids in retail honey in China

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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


Pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) are natural toxins present in over 6000 plants. Humans are exposed to PAs through the intake of PA-containing plants and/or PA-contaminated foodstuffs, such as honey. PA contamination in honey has been extensively studied in many countries, but rarely investigated in China. The present study investigated PA contamination in retail honey purchased in four representative regions (Hong Kong, Macau, Beijing, Shanghai) in China. Among 120 honey samples tested, 58% of them contained PAs with the concentration range over 0.04–288.07 μg/kg. The prevalence and content of PAs in honeys purchased in Hong Kong and Macau were significantly higher than those detected in Beijing and Shanghai. Lycopsamine and echimidine were determined as predominant PAs in the contaminated honeys, and their potential botanic sources including plants of Echium and Senecio genera were identified by pollen analysis. Moreover, clivorine, which has not been reported previously in PA-contaminated honey, was found with a high prevalence (34%) in PA-contaminated honeys in China. Our study represented an integrated report on PA contamination in retail honey in China. The data provided information useful for the global assessment of human risk posed by consumption of PA-contaminated honey.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)484-494
Number of pages11
JournalFood Control
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science

User-Defined Keywords

  • China honey
  • Food safety
  • LC-MS analysis
  • Pollen analysis
  • Pyrrolizidine alkaloid


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