Evidence of natural occurrence of the banned antibiotic chloramphenicol in herbs and grass

B. Berendsen, L. Stolker, J. De Jong, M. Nielen, E. Tserendorj, R. Sodnomdarjaa, A. Cannavan, Christopher Elliott

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67 Citations (Scopus)


Chloramphenicol (CAP), a broad-spectrum antibiotic, was detected in several herb and grass samples from different geographic origins. Due to its suspected carcino-genicity and linkages with the development of aplastic anemia in humans, CAP is banned for use in food-producing animals in the European Union (EU) and many other countries. However, products of animal origin originating from Asian countries entering the European market are still found noncompliant (containing CAP) on a regular basis, even when there is no history of chloramphenicol use in these countries. A possible explanation for the continued detection of these residues is the natural occurrence of CAP in plant material which is used as animal feed, with the consequent transfer of the substance to the animal tissues. Approximately 110 samples were analyzed using liquid chromatography coupled with mass spectrometric detection. In 26 samples, the presence of CAP was confirmed using the criteria for banned substances defined by the EU. Among other plant materials, samples of the Artemisia family retrieved from Mongolia and from Utah, USA, and a therapeutic herb mixture obtained from local stores in the Netherlands proved to contain CAP at levels ranging from 0.1 to 450 mu g/kg. These findings may have a major impact in relation to international trade and safety to the consumer. The results of this study demonstrate that noncompliant findings in animal-derived food products may in part be due to the natural occurrence of chloramphenicol in plant material. This has implications for the application of current EU, USA, and other legislation and the interpretation of analytical results with respect to the consideration of CAP as a xenobiotic veterinary drug residue and the regulatory actions taken upon its detection in food.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1955-1963
Number of pages9
JournalAnalytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry


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