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Potato Glycoalkaloids

Potato Glycoalkaloids
September 16, 2008

Glycoalkaloids in potato was the topic of a number of newspaper articles recently , since the Journal of the Science of  Food and Agriculture published a review on glycoalkaloids in potato and potato products. Although most of us prefer to read newspaper articles that educate the general public on the numerous nutritional benefits of the potato, the attention to glycoalkaloids may serve the potato industry well.

As far as I am aware, potato glycoalkaloids have not been a problem anywhere – and have not been for a while. Hence, the current attention to glycoalkaloids may serve as a useful reminder to keep paying attention to this issue and keep that record.

Glycoalkaloids are naturally present toxins, that probably evolved as protective compounds in response to tissue damage.  Glycoalkaloids have anti-microbial, insecticidal and fungicidal properties. In low concentrations glycoalkaloids can have a positive impact on flavour. However, in higher concentration glycoalkaloids cause a bitter taste and can be toxic.

Both consumers and potato industry can take a number of precautions to keep the risks of glycoalkaloids negligible. Here is a list with suggestions of what various players in the potato supply chain can do:

Consumers

  • Discard sunburned potatoes
  • Cut away green potato
  • Do not eat bitter potatoes or potato products
  • Do not eat potato sprouts or sprouted potatoes

Potato Processors

  • Remove green/sunburned potato flesh, potato sprouts
  • Avoid mechanical injury, bruising, wounding, cutting, slicing during handling prior to processing
  • Special care is required for skin-on potato products

Farmers

  • Keep potatoes well covered with soil during growth
  • Allow tubers to mature before harvest
  • Avoid harvest at very high temperatures and under bright sunlight
  • Suppress sprouting of potatoes
  • Avoid mechanical injury, bruising, wounding cutting, slicing during handling

Potato Packers

  • Discard sunburned tubers
  • Minimize tuber exposure to light during grading and other operations
  • Avoid mechanical injury, bruising, wounding cutting, slicing during handling
  • Pack potatoes in materials which protect them from light

Retailers

  • Store tubers in the dark
  • Display potatoes packed in materials which protect them from light

Breeders/Agencies that decide on the introduction of new varieties

  • Select potato cultivars with low tendency to form glycoalkaloids
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