Ergot Alkaloids in Wheat and Rye Derived Products in Italy

Francesca Debegnach, Simona Patriarca, Carlo Brera, Emanuela Gregori, Elisa Sonego, Gabriele Moracci, Barbara De Santis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Genus Claviceps is a plant pathogen able to produce a group of toxins, ergot alkaloids (EAs), whose effects have been known since the Middle Ages (ergotism). Claviceps purpurea is the most important representative specie, known to infect more than 400 monocotyledonous plants including economically important cereal grains (e.g., rye, wheat, triticale). EAs are not regulated as such. Maximum limits are in the pipeline of the EU Commission while at present ergot sclerotia content is set by the Regulation (EC) No. 1881/2006 in unprocessed cereals (0.05% as a maximum). This study aimed to investigate the presence of the six principal EAs (ergometrine, ergosine, ergocornine, α-ergocryptine, ergotamine and ergocristine) and their relative epimers (-inine forms) in rye- and wheat-based products. Of the samples, 85% resulted positive for at least one of the EAs. Wheat bread was the product with the highest number of positivity (56%), followed by wheat flour (26%). Rye and wheat bread samples showed the highest values when the sum of the EAs was considered, and durum wheat bread was the more contaminated sample (1142.6 μg/kg). These results suggest that ongoing monitoring of EAs in food products is critical until maximum limits are set.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 1 2019


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