Statement on the presence of free gossypol in whole cottonseed

EFSA Publication

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The European Commission asked EFSA to assess information provided by the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment, on the toxicity of free gossypol in relation to the use of whole cotton seed in feed for ruminants, in particular dairy cows, and, if necessary, to update the previous opinion of the EFSA Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM) on gossypol as an undesirable substance in animal feed. Gossypol is a polyphenolic compound that exists in a racemic mixture of (+)-gossypol and (-)-gossypol isomers. It occurs in free or (protein-) bound forms in cottonseeds. The most commonly used cottonseeds in feed are from Upland and Pima varieties. The Pima variety is considered more toxic due to a higher content of the (-)-gossypol isomer. Upland whole cottonseeds (WCS) are fed with no further processing (after delinting); Pima varieties normally undergo further processing (grinding or cracking). It is claimed that WCS have a greater retention time in the rumen, which results in an increased detoxifying activity, compared to a shorter ruminal retention time, in the case of cracked cottonseed or cottonseed meal products. Increased erythrocyte fragility has been observed in cows given WCS Upland varieties at similar exposure levels as those resulting from an inclusion rate of 10% of WCS containing gossypol at 7,000 mg/kg in feed – the maximum permitted level of gossypol in WCS suggested by the Spanish Delegation. The information from the Spanish delegation does not differentiate between varieties in their suggestion for an increase in the maximum permitted content of free gossypol for WCS. As both Upland and Pima varieties are grown in the EU and are used for animal feed, both varieties of WCS should be considered. The CONTAM Panel considered it not necessary to update the previous opinion.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationParma, Italy
PublisherEuropen Food Safety Authority
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2017
SeriesEFSA Journal


  • Whole cottonseed
  • Feed
  • Ruminants
  • Free gossypol
  • Toxicity


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