Scientists warn too much flaxseed could cause cyanide poisoning

Scientists are warning that eating too much flaxseed could cause cyanide poisoning.

Also known as linseed, it is rich in fibre, omega-3 fatty acids and micronutrients, and in the current trend is added to breakfast cereal or blended into smoothies.

But the seeds also contain a naturally occurring compound called amygdalin, a type of ‘cyanogenic glycoside’ that can produce cyanide gas as it degrades.

Scientists are warning that eating too much ground flaxseed could cause cyanide poisoning and adults could end up ill if they consume just three teaspoons of it in one sitting

Stephen Adams of the Daily Mail reports more cyanide is released if the flaxseed has been ground – a form in which it is commonly sold, as the seeds themselves are quite hard.

Now scientists at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have published a report warning that eating as little as a third of a teaspoon of ground flaxseed can be dangerous for a small child.

Adults could end up ill if they consume just three teaspoons of it at one sitting. Signs of cyanide poisoning include headache, confusion, agitation, irregular heart beat and trouble breathing. In severe cases, it can be lethal.

Long-term damage including neurological problems can result from repeated exposure.

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.

Terror plot to attack US hotel and restaurant food over a single weekend

CBS News reported last night that Department of Homeland Security officials uncovered a plot by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to poison food at hotels and restaurants in the U.S.

A key Intelligence source has confirmed the threat as "credible." Department of Homeland Security officials, along with members of the Department of Agriculture and the FDA, have briefed a small group of corporate security officers from the hotel and restaurant industries about it.

The plot uncovered earlier this year is said to involve the use of two poisons – ricin and cyanide – slipped into salad bars and buffets.

Manuals and videos on jihadist websites explain how to easy it is to make both poisons.

"Initially it would look very much like food poisoning," said St. John’s University professor of pharmaceutical sciences Dr. Susan Ford.

Former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff says it’s important to let public health officials know that what looks like food poisoning could be a terrorist attack.