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Investigation of the presence of anti-nutritional and toxic compounds in Health Foods

Project Reference: 04-RESR-03

Status: Completed

Commencement Date: January, 2005

Project Duration: 27 months


Concerns have been expressed regarding the potential for contamination of health food products by natural toxins, particularly aristolochic acid and blue green algae toxins.  Aristolochic acid has been found in Chinese herbal medicines and is known to be carcinogenic, mutagenic and cytotoxic while blue green algae toxins are known to be hepatoxic. Agencies such as Health Canada and the US Food and Drug Administration have issued notifications regarding their presence and potential toxicity.

This project investigated the presence of both aristolochic acid and the two main blue green algae toxins (microcystin and nodularin) in health products sold on the island of Ireland.  State of the art analytical technologies for their detection were developed which were used in an all-island survey of Asian medicines and health products available on the market. This resulted in the identification and subsequent removal from the marketplace of potentially unsafe products.

Principal Contractor(s):

Dr Martin Danaher, Teagasc Food Research Centre, Ashtown, Dublin


Dr Andrew Baxter, Xenosense Ltd., Belfast



Laboratory capacity building

No published report

Peer Reviews:

T. Vinogradova, M. Danaher, A. Baxter, M. Moloney, D. Victory, S.A. Haughey, “Rapid surface plasmon resonance immunobiosensor assay for microcystin toxins in blue-green algae food supplements”. Talant (2010), doi:10.1016/j.talanta.2011.01.036.

Emiliana Capurro, Martin Danaher ∗, Aniello Anastasio, Maria Luisa Cortesi , Michael O’Keeffe. “Efficient HPLC method for the determination of nicarbazin, as dinitrocarbanilide in broiler liver”. Journal of Chromatography B, 822 (2005) 154–159.

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