Is "Wild" a Food Quality Attribute? Heavy Metal Content in Wild and Cultivated Sea Buckthorn and Consumers' Risk Perception

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Sep 8;18(18):9463. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18189463.


Globally, the consumption of herbal supplements is on an upward trend. As the food supplement industry thrives, so does the need for consumers' awareness of health risks. This contribution is grounded on two assumptions. Firstly, not always "wild" is a food quality attribute, and secondly, the food chain is judged as a noteworthy route for human exposure to soil contamination. Sea buckthorn (SBT) was selected for investigation due to its versatility. In addition to its wide therapeutic uses, it is present in ecological rehabilitation which may raise concerns regarding its safety for human consumption as a consequence of the accumulation of contaminants in the plant. The study aims to discover if the objective contamination of SBT with toxic residues is congruent with people's subjective evaluation of SBT consumption risk. A quantitative determination of heavy metals was performed by atomic absorption spectrometry. The metals abundance followed the sequence Fe > Cu > Zn > Mn > Cr > Ni > Pb > Cd. Quantitative data on consumers' subjective risk evaluations were collected through an online survey on 408 Romanians. Binary logistic shows that the consumption of SBT is predicted by the perceived effect of SBT consumption on respondents' health. The study confirms that the objective contamination of wild and cultivated SBT is in line with the perceived contamination risk. It is inferred that a joint effort of marketers, media, physicians, and pharmacists is needed to inform consumers about the risks and benefits of SBT consumption.

Keywords: consumption; contamination; health; herbal supplements; mining area; sea buckthorn.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • China
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Food Quality
  • Hippophae*
  • Humans
  • Metals, Heavy* / analysis
  • Perception
  • Risk Assessment
  • Soil
  • Soil Pollutants* / analysis


  • Metals, Heavy
  • Soil
  • Soil Pollutants