Scientific Opinion, EFSA Panel on Plant Health (PLH)
The European Commission requested EFSA to provide a scientific opinion on the effect on public or animal health or on the environment on the further distribution of Ambrosia spp. in the European Union and on the importance of feed materials, in particular bird feed, in the dispersion of Ambrosia spp. The genus Ambrosia (Asteraceae family) is distributed worldwide. Ambrosia artemisiifolia (common ragweed) has heavily colonised several areas of South-East Europe. Ambrosia spp., both in their native range and in invaded areas, are of public health concern due to the allergenic properties of their pollen. The NDA Panel concluded that inhalation of the plant pollen causes rhino-conjunctivitis and asthma, with skin allergies and food allergy playing minor roles. Ambrosia may cross-sensitize patients to other allergens, including food allergens. There is some evidence for allergenicity of Ambrosia pollen in animals. With regard to the effects on the environment of the further distribution of Ambrosia spp. in the European Union, the PLH Panel concluded that there is no direct evidence that Ambrosia spp. cause extinction of plant species. However, there are some indications that A. artemisiifolia could become highly invasive in certain environmentally-valuable habitats and might be linked to an impoverishment of species richness, therefore further ecological studies are needed. The CONTAM Panel focused on the relative importance of animal feed, bird feed in particular, on the dispersion of Ambrosia. Ambrosia seeds may contaminate feed. However, animal feed materials compounded for use in livestock are extensively processed. This processing destroys Ambrosia seeds and hence the contribution of compounded feed to the dispersion of Ambrosia is considered to be negligible. Bird feed often contains significant quantities of Ambrosia seeds and remains unprocessed. Therefore, bird feed seems to play an important role in introducing Ambrosia to new, previously not infested areas.