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Food Safety Focus (119th Issue, June 2016) – Food Incident Highlight

Lethal Cyanide in Raw Apricot Kernels

In late April, the European Food Safety Authority released a report regarding the lethal doses of cyanide in raw apricot kernel (the seed(s) inside the stone). It is estimated that adults eating as little as half of a raw apricot seed could have acute health risks, such as headaches, nausea, vomiting, lethargy, etc., and death in extreme cases. Whereas toddlers (aged 1-3 years) consuming one small seed could be fatal.

While cyanide-containing chemicals are naturally present in apricot seeds, eating apricot fruit is safe as the seed inside the hard stone shell has no contact with the fruit. Consumers are advised against eating raw, unprocessed bitter or sweet apricot seeds and their powdered forms. Although processing (e.g. removing skin, soaking and boiling bitter apricot seeds when preparing some Chinese soups/drinks) can reduce the level of toxins in apricot seeds, they should be consumed in strict moderation.

Apricot fruit and its raw seed in the stoneApricot fruit and its raw seed in the stone
Apricot fruit and its raw seed in the stone