Are Cyanotoxins the Only Toxic Compound Potentially Present in Microalgae Supplements? Results from a Study of Ecological and Non-Ecological Products

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Abstract: Food supplements with microalgae are becoming increasingly abundant and can be easily found anywhere. The most popular products are based on cyanophytes, such as Aphanizomenon flos-aquae, Arthrospira platensis and Limnospira maxima, or on chlorophytes, such as Chlorella or Haematoccus. Although they are all advertised as being very beneficial for health, these products might be harmful because they may contain cyanotoxins and other contaminants, and no information on production methods or strain origins is usually provided. While legislation on the presence of microcystins in waters for di erent uses is clear, toxicological analyses are not compulsory for food supplements, nor for analyzing anatoxins. Given the potential risk of eating contaminated food, cyanotoxins, heavy metals and the presence of other contaminant organisms were analyzed in 10 microalgae food supplements. Microcystin-LR and anatoxin-a were detected in three analyzed products, and in both cyanophyte- and chlorophyte-based products. The light microscope study revealed the presence of di erent potentially harmful microbial contaminants. The ICP (OES) analyses detected high concentrations of some heavy metals, especially Pb. The results emphasize the need to promote the better control of food products containing microalgae, and to develop standard methodologies to analyze cyanotoxins and potential toxic compounds to protect consumer health.