The contamination of phytopharmaceuticals and herbal teas with toxic plants is an increasing problem. Senecio vulgaris
L. is a particularly noxious weed in agricultural and horticultural crops due to its content of toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs). Since some of these compounds are carcinogenic, the distribution of this plant should be monitored. The amount of PAs in S. vulgaris
is affected by various factors. Therefore, we investigated the occurrence of PAs depending on the developmental stage and season. A systematic study using field-plot experiments (four seasons, five developmental stages of the plants: S1 to S5) was performed and the PA concentration was determined via LC-MS/MS analysis. The total amount of PAs in the plant increased with the plant development, however, the total PA concentrations in µg/g dry matter remained nearly unchanged, whilst trends for specific PAs were observed. The concentrations of PA-N
-oxides (PANOs) were much higher than that of tertiary PAs. Maximal amounts of the PA total were 54.16 ± 4.38 mg/plant (spring, S5). The total amount of PAs increased strongly until later developmental stages. Therefore, even small numbers of S. vulgaris
may become sufficient for relevant contaminations set out by the maximal permitted daily intake levels recommended by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
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