Fate of pyrrolizidine alkaloids during processing of milk of cows treated with ragwort

Nijs, Monique de; Mulder, Patrick P.J.; Klijnstra, Mirjam D.; Driehuis, Frank; Hoogenboom, Ron L.A.P.


To investigate the fate of pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) during milk processing, milk of cows treated via rumen fistula with a mixture of 84% (w/w) ragwort (Jacobaea vulgaris, syn. Senecio jacobaea) and 16% narrow-leaved ragwort (Senecio inaequidens) was processed using laboratory scale heating systems with industrial settings. Pasteurised and sterilised (UHT) milk were produced, as well as set-type yoghurt and cheese. Samples were analysed for 29 PAs using LC-MS/MS, of which 11 PAs were detected above LOQ in the samples (0.1 µg l−1). Alterations in the PA concentration and composition between the standardised milk and the corresponding end-product(s) were evaluated. The heat treatments applied for pasteurisation and UHT sterilisation to prepare semi-skimmed consumption milk did not affect the PA levels in the end-products. In yoghurt, after fermentation of standardised milk (6 h, pH 4.4), 73% of total PAs were recovered. The PA concentration, specifically dehydrojacoline, was decreased, although not quantifiable, during cheese production. A further decrease of 38% during 6 weeks of ripening was observed. The results show that the PA concentration of natural contaminated cow’s milk is not affected by heat treatment applied for pasteurised and sterilised milk, but that microbial fermentation of the milk leads to a lowered PA concentration in yoghurt and cheese. This is probably due to microbiological degradation, since PAs are fairly stable under acidic conditions.