UK rye-based cereal products were analysed for six major ergot alkaloids using an in-house-validated liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) method that distinguished -ine and -inine epimers (isomers). Ergot alkaloids were detected in 25 of 28 samples subject to quantification limits of 1-3 µg kg(-1), including all of eleven rye crispbreads that had up to 340 µg kg(-1). Continental-style rye breads contained up to 121 µg kg(-1). Loaf breads, bread-mix flours, and crackers contained only low levels of alkaloids. Ergotamine, ergocristine, and ergosine were the predominant ergot alkaloids in terms of level and frequency of occurrence. There were no apparent differences in the ergot levels between the organic and non-organic products, although the numbers tested were low. Most rye breads had a ratio of -ines to -inines of about 1.5, and rye crispbreads had lower and more variable -ine to -inine ratios.
Keywords: cereals and grain; chromatography – gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC/MS); mycotoxins – ergot; organic foods; screening assays.