Don’t drink the jello: Organic online business fined for selling toxic apricot kernels as food

Giselle Wakatama of ABC News Australia reports the sale of apricot kernels as food was banned in December by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), killing the $600,000 a year industry.

apricot-kernelBefore the ban, FSANZ said about 20,000 kilograms of apricot kernels were sold for human consumption in Australia each year.

Since the ban, inspectors from the New South Wales Food Safety Authority have been keeping an eye out for illegal sales.

The authority has revealed a Singleton-based online company, Fourbody, has been fined nearly $900 for selling the kernels illegally.

The company’s online website said it sourced the kernels from Turkey.

Fourbody did not respond to the ABC’s requests for comment.

Another supplier, Heal Yourself Australia, operating from Greenacre in Sydney, was fined the same amount for selling the kernels illegally earlier this year.

It too was found to have sold food that did not comply with the requirements of the Food Standards Code.

Consumer group Choice has previously said the apricot kernels, which are found inside the fruit’s stone and look similar to almonds, can be toxic.

Choice reported the apricot kernels had been sold as a miracle cancer cure since the 1950s, under the misguided premise that the cyanide targeted only cancerous cells, leaving healthy cells alone.

Apricot kernels pose risk of cyanide poisoning

Eating more than one large or three small raw apricot kernels in a serving can exceed safe levels. Toddlers consuming even one small apricot kernel risk being over the safe level.

apricot_kernels_160427A naturally-occurring compound called amygdalin is present in apricot kernels and converts to cyanide after eating. Cyanide poisoning can cause nausea, fever, headaches, insomnia, thirst, lethargy, nervousness, joint and muscle various aches and pains, and falling blood pressure. In extreme cases it is fatal.

Studies indicate 0.5 to 3.5 milligrams (mg) cyanide per kilogram of body weight can be lethal. The European Food Safety Authority’s Scientific Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain set a safe level for a one-off exposure (known as the Acute Reference Dose, or “ARfD”) of 20 micrograms per kilogram of body weight. This is 25 times below the lowest reported lethal dose.

Based on these limits and the amounts of amygdalin typically present in raw apricot kernels, EFSA’s experts estimate that adults could consume one large or three small apricot kernels (370mg), without exceeding the ARfD. For toddlers the amount would be 60mg which is about half of one small kernel.

Apricot fruit is not affected

Normal consumption of apricot fruit does not pose a health risk to consumers. The kernel is the seed from inside the apricot stone. It is obtained by cracking open and removing the hard stone shell and, therefore, has no contact with the fruit.

Most raw apricot kernels sold in the EU are believed to be imported from outside the EU and marketed to consumers via the internet. Sellers promote them as a cancer-fighting food and some actively promote intakes of 10 and 60 kernels per day for the general population and cancer patients, respectively.

Evaluating the claimed benefits of raw apricot kernels for cancer treatment or any other use is outside EFSA’s food safety remit and was, therefore, not part of this scientific opinion.

EFSA consulted its partners in EU Member States to discuss this scientific opinion and previous assessments by national authorities (see report below). This risk assessment will inform risk managers in the European Commission and Member States who regulate EU food safety. They will decide if measures are needed to protect public health from consumption of raw apricot kernels.

Australian raw apricot kernel cyanide risk

The kid has taken to eating dried apricots as a bedtime snack.

But I don’t know anything about raw apricot kernels.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand apparently does and is changing its advice: that it is unsafe for adults to eat more than three raw apricot kernels apricot.kernel(with skin on) per day. Children should not eat any.

Some plant based foods, such as raw apricot kernels contain cyanide which can pose a risk to consumers.

Apricot kernels are edible nut-like objects found within the stone of fresh apricots. There are different types of apricot kernels—those with the skin on contain high levels of cyanide that can be released into the body when eaten. Those with the skin off also contain cyanide, but at lower levels.

There have been reports of poisoning incidents in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, United Kingdom and Europe from eating raw apricot kernels.

In 2011 a consumer in Queensland was hospitalised after consuming raw apricot kernels with high levels of hydrocyanic acid. At the time, FSANZ warned consumers not to consume raw apricot kernels.

Based on new information, FSANZ has revised its earlier advice and now advises that it is unsafe for adults to eat more than three raw apricot kernels (with skin on) per day. Children should not eat any.

Consuming processed foods derived from apricot kernels (e.g. amaretti biscuits, almond finger biscuits, apricot jams, and apricot nectar) doesn’t pose a risk because processing or cooking these foods reduces cyanide to safe levels.


Natural cyanide found in apricot kernels forces recall

One person has been hospitalized in Queensland, Australia, leading to a recall of ChiTree apricot kernels after samples were found to contain high levels of a naturally occurring cyanide.

Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young warned that ingesting the product could pose a serious health risk.

“Anyone who has purchased ChiTree apricot kernels are advised not to eat them as it is unsafe,” Dr Young said.

ChiTree apricot kernels are distributed by a Victorian-based company, which has begun a voluntary recall of the product.

All retail sales have been suspended, including those online.

According to the company, raw, bitter apricot kernels contain a substance called, amygdalin, believed by some to be of therapeutic value. A constituent of amygdalin is hydrocyanic acid, which is naturally occurring and found in the seeds of common fruit and berries. Cooking the kernels destroys the amygdalin content.