Antibiotics can be naturally present in crops

Published on: Jun 17, 2013

Antibiotics can be naturally present in crops and can, therefore, enter the food chain unintentionally, according to a doctoral thesis titled "LC-MS Residue Analysis of Antibiotics" by Bjorn Berendsen at RIKILT Wageningen UR. Berendsen studied the antibiotic chloramphenicol, which can be found in straw and maize.

Controlling the unintentional spread of antibiotics is an important aspect of this process. Wageningen reported that Berendsen developed "extremely sensitive" methods for detecting antibiotic contamination in manure, soil, crops and other environmental compartments. The study also demonstrated that the antibiotic chloramphenicol occurs naturally in straw and maize. Chloramphenicol is prohibited in the U.S. and European Union for use in food-producing animals.

Berendsen and his RIKILT colleagues showed that chloramphenicol, which is produced by soil bacteria, is absorbed by crops. These crops are then used as feed or bedding, and in this way the antibiotic can be administered unintentionally to livestock.

In his thesis, Berendsen calls for further research into the unintentional spread of antibiotics and the possible transfer of the "natural chloramphenicol" in crops and feed into food.

RIKILT Wageningen UR is part of the international knowledge organization Wageningen UR (University & Research centre). RIKILT conducts independent research into the safety and quality of food. The institute is specialized in detecting and identifying substances in food and animal feed and determining the functionality and effect of those substances.