Risks for human health related to the presence of grayanotoxins in certain honey

EFSA J. 2023 Mar 2;21(3):e07866. doi: 10.2903/j.efsa.2023.7866. eCollection 2023 Mar.


The European Commission asked EFSA for a scientific opinion on the risks for human health of the presence of grayanotoxins (GTXs) in 'certain honey' from Ericaceae plants. The risk assessment included all structurally related grayananes occurring with GTXs in 'certain' honey. Oral exposure is associated with acute intoxication in humans. Acute symptoms affect the muscles, nervous and cardiovascular systems. These may lead to complete atrioventricular block, convulsions, mental confusion, agitation, syncope and respiratory depression. For acute effects, the CONTAM Panel derived a reference point (RP) of 15.3 μg/kg body weight for the sum of GTX I and III based on a BMDL10 for reduced heart rate in rats. A similar relative potency was considered for GTX I. Without chronic toxicity studies, an RP for long-term effects could not be derived. There is evidence for genotoxicity in mice exposed to GTX III or honey containing GTX I and III, showing increased levels of chromosomal damage. The mechanism of genotoxicity is unknown. Without representative occurrence data for the sum of GTX I and III and consumption data from Ericaceae honey, acute dietary exposure was estimated based on selected concentrations for GTX I and III reflecting concentrations measured in 'certain' honeys. Applying a margin of exposure (MOE) approach, the estimated MOEs raised health concerns for acute toxicity. The Panel calculated the highest concentrations for GTX I and III below which no acute effects would be expected following 'certain honey' consumption. The Panel is 75% or more certain that the calculated highest concentration of 0.05 mg for the sum of GTX I and III per kg honey is protective for all age groups regarding acute intoxications. This value does not consider other grayananes in 'certain honey' and does not cover the identified genotoxicity.

Keywords: Ericaceae; Rhododendron honey; grayananes; grayanotoxins.