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Food Safety Focus (154th Issue, May 2019) – Food Incident Highlight

Beware of Poisoning Caused by Taxus

Recently, a poisoning case related to consumption of self-prepared wine containing taxus was reported to the Centre for Health Protection of the Department of Health.  A victim suffered from muscle pain, lower limb weakness and numbness shortly after consumption of the taxus-containing wine and intensive care in hospital was required.

Taxus belongs to a genus of yew.  All species of yew contain highly poisonous substances known as taxine alkaloids.  Symptoms of intoxication including gastrointestinal symptoms followed by muscle weakness may occur after consumption. In severe cases, tachycardia followed by bradycardia, hypotension, respiratory depression, convulsion, coma and even death may result.  To date, no specific antidote is available.

To prevent poisoning, public members should not consume products (e.g. wine) containing taxus or unknown plants.  It is advised to seek immediate medical attention if poisoning related to consumption of taxus-containing product is suspected.