• Open Access

Scientific Opinion on the risks for animal and public health related to the presence of Alternaria toxins in feed and food


  • EFSA Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM)

  • Panel members: Jan Alexander, Diane Benford, Alan Boobis, Sandra Ceccatelli, Bruce Cottrill, Jean-Pierre Cravedi, Alessandro Di Domenico, Daniel Doerge, Eugenia Dogliotti, Lutz Edler, Peter Farmer, Metka Filipič, Johanna Fink-Gremmels, Peter Fürst, Thierry Guérin, Helle Katrine Knutsen, Miroslav Machala, Antonio Mutti, Josef Schlatter, Martin Rose and Rolaf van Leeuwen
  • Correspondence: contam@efsa.europa.eu
  • Acknowledgement: The Panel wishes to thank the members of the Working Group on Alternaria toxins: Jean-Pierre Cravedi, Eugenia Dogliotti, Peter Farmer, Thierry Guérin, Manfred Metzler, Elke Rauscher-Gabernig, Carlos van Peteghem and Antonio Vicent Civera for the preparatory work on this scientific opinion, and EFSA staff Gina Cioacata, Valeriu Curtui, Mari Eskola and Claudia Heppner for the support provided to this scientific opinion. The CONTAM Panel acknowledges all European competent authorities and other stakeholders that provided occurrence data on Alternaria toxins for food and feed, and supported the consumption data collection for the Comprehensive European Food Consumption Database.
  • Adoption date: 6 October 2011
  • Published date: 26 October 2011
  • Question number: EFSA-Q-2010-00960
  • On request from: European Commission


The European Commission asked the European Food Safety Authority to review the safety of Alternaria toxins in food and feed. In addition to causing plant diseases on many crops such as cereals, oilseeds, tomatoes, apples and olives, some of these toxins are genotoxic in vitro and/or fetotoxic in rats. This opinion deals with alternariol, alternariol monomethyl ether, tenuazonic acid, iso-tenuazonic acid, altertoxins, tentoxin, altenuene and AAL-toxins (Alternaria alternataf. sp. lycopersici toxins). Two Member States provided 11,730 occurrence results in food and also data published in the scientific literature were considered. Generally these toxins were found in grains and grain-based products, tomato and tomato products, sunflower seeds and sunflower oil, fruits and fruit products, and beer and wine. The feed occurrence data (1150 results) were collected from the literature only. The knowledge on toxic effects of Alternaria toxins on farm and companion animals and occurrence data in feed were insufficient to assess the health risk for different species. For chicken there are indications that alternariol represents a health risk but it cannot be excluded that tenuazonic acid could also be of concern. Considering: (1) there are few or no relevant toxicity data on Alternaria toxins, (2) the chemical structure of several of them is known, (3) dietary exposure data exist for some of them, the Panel on Contaminants in the food chain used the threshold of toxicological concern (TTC) approach to assess the relative level of concern for dietary exposure of humans to these mycotoxins. For the genotoxic Alternaria toxins, alternariol and alternariol monomethyl ether, the estimated chronic dietary exposure exceeded the relevant TTC value indicating a need for additional toxicity data. The dietary exposure estimates for non-genotoxic tentoxin and tenuazonic acid are lower than the relevant TTC value and are considered unlikely to be a human health concern.