Plant toxins

Plant toxins

Plant toxins are toxic secondary plant metabolites which naturally occur in food, feed, weeds and ornamental plants. The chemical diversity is tremendous.

Aromatic plants which are used as an ingredient in food (herbs, spices), scents and flavours (essential oils) or traditional herbal remedies are examples of products in which plant toxins abundantly occur. In herbal remedies a plant toxin can be the same substance as the ingredient to which the pharmaceutical effect is attributed. In this case the difference between the toxic and pharmaceutical effect is obviously the dose.


Wageningen Food Safety Research:

  • inspects food and feed for the presence of pyrrolyzidine alkaloids, tropane alkaloids and other plant toxins. We compare your sample to a database which contains approximately 700 plant toxins.
  • carries out toxicological studies
  • advises about occurrence and toxicity

Scientific opinion

Here you can read the Scientific Opinion on Tropane alkaloids in food and feed of EFSA. Wageningen Food Safety Research colleague Ron Hoogenboom is a member of the EFSA Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain

Database plant genera and plant toxins

Wageningen Food Safety Research has developed a database that allows you to quickly find which plant genera contain which plant toxins and vice versa. The database contains over 700 plant species and associated toxins. To fill this database information has been used from the Compendium of botanic genera or species which might contain compounds of concern that has been compiled in the framework of an EFSA Scientific cooperation (, complemented with information form other sources.


Per combination you will find information about:

  • compound group and individual compound
  • effects
  • literature references