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Main research question/goal
The food supplement sector is one of the fastest growing sectors in the food industry. This is mainly due to the increasing awareness for public health and disease prevention, an increase of certain population groups (e.g. elderly, immunosuppressed people, etc.) and globalization (e.g. internet trade). However, food supplements may contain plant compounds that are either toxic and/or interfere with medicines or therapeutic treatments.

Currently, standardized, specific and sensitive detection methods for a myriad of such plant toxins in food supplements are lacking. In addition, the plant toxins relevant for food supplements must be prioritized. This ANAPLANTOX research project addresses both challenges.

Research approach
To prioritize the list of plant toxins in food supplements, we start by investigating which toxins are relevant within the Belgian legal context. We create a database based on available data on toxicology, prevalence and, where possible, consumption. Subsequently, we optimize a tandem liquid chromatographic – tandem mass spectrometric (LC-MS/MS) method to specifically and sensitively detect/quantify several plant toxins in different food supplement matrices (powders, tablets, liquids, etc.). A methodology (extraction and detection/quantification) for small molecules will be optimized plus another one for proteins (possibly with incorporation of LC – high resolution mass spectrometry (LC-HRMS)). Simultaneous analysis of as many toxins as possible in one method is the goal. After developing these methods, an extensive validation (both intra- and inter laboratory validation according to Commission Decision 2002/657/EC) will be performed to evaluate the performance of the methods developed. In addition, this performance will be compared with existing methodologies. Last an international ring trial is planned.

In general, this project will contribute to a better knowledge and availability of sensitive analytical possibilities for the competent authorities, food supplement producers and analytical laboratories, which in the long run contributes to a better guarantee of the consumer’s food safety. The aim of this research is to generate knowledge about the toxicological relevance and the corresponding methodologies needed for the detection and quantification of plant toxins in food supplements. We plan to disseminate the results obtained and the knowledge gathered within the ANAPLANTOX project by means of a workshop. Besides (inter)national publications and presentations, we also plan to translate results into scientifically based recommendations for the sector and, where possible, policy supportive documents.
Effective start/end date1/02/1713/11/19

ID: 4894459