Toxin Load Considerations in Botanical Food Ingredients, Herbs and Spices

Herbs and spices, and their essential oils, are extensively used in the Ayurvedic medicine but their application in food preservation is limited due to their tastes as well as the toxin load. In addition to synthetic insecticides and fungi, herbs and spices contain biologically produced toxins: microbial compounds, allergens like terpenes, alkaloids, stimulants, depressants, etc. Since food is consumed in much larger quantity than medicinal products, the toxin load of food ingredients and additives is therefore much worth considering. The Food Safety and Standards Regulation (FSSR) 2011 (Contaminants, Toxins and Residues) specifies limits of metal contaminants, crop contaminants—aflatoxins, patulin, ochratoxin A—naturally occurring toxic substances—agaric acid, hydrocyanic acid, hypericine, safrole —and insecticide residues (Chaps. 1 and 2). In the ambit of herbs and spices, terpenes, which mostly act as skin allergens should be considered with much attention. Safrole, limonene, phellandrene, geraniol, citronellol, borneol, citral, etc. are a few terpenes of plant origin with skin allergenicity. Out of these, safrole, is the most harmful terpene and FSSR, 2011 specifies maximum limits for its presence in food articles up to 10 parts per million (ppm).

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