FDA alerts industry to possible toxins in Jatropha ingredients

FDA alerts industry to possible toxins in Jatropha ingredients

Notification appears to be proactive caution related to FDA's recent identification of Jatropha oil as a biodiesel fuel source.

FDA has issued a notification to industry (available as a PDF) to call attention to the possibility that certain ingredients that may be used in production of food and other consumer products may contain toxins if derived from the Jatropha plant. At the same time, the agency states that it is unaware of any FDA-regulated products that contain Jatropha toxins, and AHPA has been informed that the agency has not received any reports of adverse events associated with Jatropha toxins. The notification therefore appears to have been issued as a proactive exercise in caution and is related to FDA's recent identification of Jatropha oil as a source for biodiesel fuel and the possibility that co-products of this biodiesel production may include oils, glycerin, and protein. The agency has previously issued guidance on testing of glycerin for diethylene glycol, and increased attention to glycerin supply chains may be in order.

FDA's notification also states that the agency is working to develop test methods to identify Jatropha-derived ingredients and requests that any known or developed validated test methods, as well as incidents of actual detection of Jatropha toxins in food ingredients, be shared with FDA.

Food and Drug Administration

July 6, 2012

FDA Notification to Industry Products using oils, glycerin, or protein that were derived from the Jatropha plant may have toxic effects

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is notifying the regulated community that oils, glycerin, and proteins commonly used in the production of human and animal food, medical products, cosmetics, and other FDA-regulated products may contain toxins if they are derived from the Jatropha plant.

When vegetable oils and animal fats are used in biodiesel fuel production, the co-products include oils, glycerin and protein. Recently, the Jatropha plant has become an attractive source material for biodiesel fuel because of the high oil content of its seed, availability of the plant in certain parts of the world, and relatively low cost. Jatropha is a drought-resistant shrub that grows well in tropical and semi-tropic climates throughout the world. However, 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.

As part of the biodiesel fuel production process, oil is extracted from the Jatropha plant. This oil contains a portion of the toxic compounds; however, toxic compounds are retained in the glycerin and protein co-products. Consequently, the oils, glycerin, and protein derived from Jatropha seeds may contain toxic compounds. Even though crude Jatropha extracts have protein levels comparable to soybeans and, therefore, could be an attractive protein source for human and animals, Jatropha-derived protein may contain these toxic ingredients. Conventional impurity test methods may not detect the presence of these toxins.

At this time, the FDA 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 industry to be aware of the potential for substitution or use of oils, glycerin, and proteins derived from the Jatropha plant. This increased attention to supply chains is important for ingredient suppliers and manufacturers of FDA-regulated products, both in the U.S. and abroad. Suppliers and manufacturers should take steps to prevent the use of ingredients that might be intentionally, or otherwise, adulterated with Jatropha. The following practices may help suppliers and manufacturers identify the presence of Jatropha-derived ingredients:

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

The FDA is monitoring this situation to assess impacts on FDA-regulated products and is working to develop test methods for Jatropha-based ingredients. As additional information becomes available, the FDA intends to provide updates. FDA welcomes relevant information from suppliers and manufacturers of FDA-regulated products. In particular, please share findings with FDA if validated testing methodologies are developed, for the detection of Jatropha-based toxins, or if Jatropha-based toxins are suspected, by sending an email to: [email protected]

Note: For the purpose of this notification, the term Jatropha refers to ingredients or materials that are derived from the plant Jatropha of the Euphorbiaceae family.

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