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Issue 12, 2011
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Safety assessment of plant food supplements (PFS)

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Botanicals and botanical preparations, including plant food supplements (PFS), are widely used in Western diets. The growing use of PFS is accompanied by an increasing concern because the safety of these PFS is not generally assessed before they enter the market. Regulatory bodies have become more aware of this and are increasing their efforts to ensure the safety of PFS. The present review describes an overview of the general framework for the safety assessment of PFS, focusing on the different approaches currently in use to assess the safety of botanicals and/or botanical compounds, including their history of safe use, the tiered approach proposed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the Threshold of Toxicological Concern (TTC) and the Margin of Exposure (MOE) concept. Moreover, some examples of botanical compounds in PFS that may be of concern are discussed. Altogether, it is clear that “natural” does not equal “safe” and that PFS may contain compounds of concern at levels far above those found in the regular diet. In addition, the traditional use of a PFS compound as a herb or tea does not guarantee its safety when used as a supplement. This points at a need for stricter regulation and control of botanical containing products, especially given their expanding market volume.

Graphical abstract: Safety assessment of plant food supplements (PFS)

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Article information

13 May 2011
20 Jun 2011
First published
01 Aug 2011

Food Funct., 2011,2, 760-768
Article type
Review Article

Safety assessment of plant food supplements (PFS)

S. J. P. L. van den Berg, L. Serra-Majem, P. Coppens and I. M. C. M. Rietjens, Food Funct., 2011, 2, 760
DOI: 10.1039/C1FO10067J

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