Knowledge Based Bio-Economy


PLANT food supplements: Levels of Intake, Benefit and Risk Assessment (Food Quality and Safety)

Project acronym: PlantLIBRA

Title of project: PLANT food supplements: Levels of Intake, Benefit and Risk Assessment

Research area: Food Quality and Safety

Contract No: 245199

EU contribution: €5 985 934

Start date: June 2010

Duration: 48 months

Status: on-going

Plant Food Supplements (PFS) are associated with biological effects that can be positive, negative, or a mixture of both. Thousands of botanicals are currently used in the EU in PFS, mainly based on their history-of-use, with sometimes little or no up-to-date scientific information on their safety and efficacy. Therefore, adequate methodologies for producing new data and large sustainable, rapidly-accessible databanks are needed to assist policy-makers, industry and other stakeholders. These are needed to record, for example, the benefits and risks and adverse effects of PFS. Since the European PFS industry does not operate in isolation, any progress towards harmonising regulations and improving quality and safety requires international cooperation.

The PlantLIBRA project is addressing these issues through constructing a meta-database containing new and published data on PFS, including on their consumption, risks and benefits, adverse effects and the biological activity of their constituents and contaminants. It is also investigating methods to identify and control PFS. All data are uploaded only after quality assessment by a trained evaluator. In addition, the consortium is designing risk and benefit models for PFS which will support more science-based decision making. The project will then disseminate its results to stakeholders in the plant food supplement sector.

Outcomes of PlantLIBRA will include a comprehensive PFS database allowing searches by chemical composition, botanical information, bioactivity and toxicity data. The project will integrate and develop existing tools (e.g., EFSA and other international guidelines), which will help promote science-based decision making by regulatory authorities and stakeholders in the PFS supply chain in the EU and in exporting countries.

The results will also contribute to a better understanding of consumer behaviour through the first pan-European PFS intake survey. This survey will provide useful information to stakeholders and regulators for enhancing the safe use of food supplements by consumers. These survey results, as well as those from consumer studies, are expected to provide information that is currently almost non-existant.

Website of project:

Coordinator: Prof. Patrizia Restani,

Organisation: Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy,


  • BioDetection Systems B.V., the Netherlands,
  • Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Biosciences' Unit, South Africa,