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Hazardous toxins found in jatropha

January 14, 2013

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a notification to the industry that products using oils, glycerin or protein derived from the jatropha plant may have toxic effects.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a notification to the industry that products using oils, glycerin or protein derived from the jatropha plant may have toxic effects.
The jatropha plant has become an important source material for the production of biodiesel fuel because of its high oil content, availability and relatively low cost. It has been heralded as a biofuel crop for the future, as it has no food use, and so will not impact on food versus fuel debates.

However, the FDA has warned that, “unlike other benign materials used to produce biodiesel fuel, jatropha plants may contain toxic compounds, including phorbol esters. These compounds exhibit potential toxicity, both acute and chronic, to exposed humans and animals.” According to the FDA report, the toxins are found mainly in the glycerin and protein co-products of the oil, although a portion of the toxins are found in the oil iself. The report explained that crude jatropha extracts have similar protein levels to soyabeans, which could make it an attractive source of protein for human consumption and as an animal feed. The toxins apparent may not be detected by conventional impurity tests.

The FDA stated that, at the present time, it is “unaware of any intentional substitution or contamination in FDA-regulated finished products or components derived from the jatropha plant. However, given the significant overlap among the supply chains of FDA-regulated products, the FDA is advising the industry to be aware of the potential for substitution or use of oils, glycerin and proteins derived from the jatropha plant. The FDA said this increased attention to supply chains was important for ingredient suppliers and manufacturers of FDA-regulated products, both in the USA and abroad. Suppliers and manufacturers should take steps to prevent the use of ingredients that might be intentionally, or otherwise, adulterated with jatropha.

It calls for the industry to:

  • Know, monitor and audit supply chains of naturally-derivedingredients;
  • Conduct comprehensive risk assessments for naturally derived ingredients, unless the composition of ingredients has been verified and does not pose a risk;
  • Confirm the composition of naturally-derived ingredients and conduct appropriate testing of these ingredients.

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