Organic Cumin with PA-problem – no marketable product available
The PA problem in Organic Cumin has been causing a lot of concern to many people responsible in the food industry since spring of this year.
PA stands for pyrrolizidine alkaloid – nitrogenous natural substances that are formed by more than 6000 plant species worldwide as protection against predators. Some of these plants belong to the weeds that typically occur in spice cultivation; they can contaminate the herb crop. When PAs are processed in the human metabolism, metabolites toxic to the liver are formed which, if consumed in higher quantities, can lead to (potentially dangerous) liver dysfunction.
PAs are actually not a new topic, but have been in the public eye since 2013, when the first standardized analysis procedure was developed and applied by the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment. Back then, it was first about herbal tea and then about honey. In 2016, rooibos tea attracted attention with increased PA values (the highest values determined were 3400 ug/kg).
In 2018, PA-contaminated herbal teas were again the subject of media attention, and in 2019, the ARD consumer magazine Markt picked up the issue and found a worrying 13,000 ug/kg in oregano. In spring 2020, the public food warning portal warned of 6 oregano spices from different suppliers. This means that the topic has reached the consumer – enlightened consumers follow the recommendation of the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment for a maximum daily intake of 0.007 µg per kilogram body weight (0.49 microgram for 70 kg). However, this can hardly be avoided because even a few weeds can contaminate an entire hectare of crops.
For this reason, responsible spice dealers are increasingly turning down customers for Organic Cumin deliveries because there is no longer a guaranteed uncontaminated product available on the market. The recourse to goods from conventional cultivation is also not safe, because for these isolated laboratory results over still higher PA-contaminations than with bio plants are present and may not be used in organic products.