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Food Safety Focus (198th Issue, January 2023)– Article 3

Are Decorative Plants Suitable for Consumption?

During the Lunar New Year, it is common to display homes with decorative plants, such as potted mandarin orange or Narcissus, which symbolise prosperity and good fortune. Some may consider that some parts of these decorative plants are edible, yet they may contain chemicals or toxins which are not fit for human consumption.

Some peoples collect mandarin oranges and tangerines after the Lunar New Year for food or salted citrus. To keep plants appealing and avoid pests, they may be sprayed with unapproved pesticides throughout production and before sale. The pesticide residues on the fruits may exceed food safety levels. Besides, ornamental plants like Narcissus may contain toxins like lycorine that can cause gastrointestinal symptoms if consumed. There have been reports of people mistaking bulbs for onions, fennel bulbs and its leaves for Chinese chives both locally and abroad.

Decorative plants are not grown for consumption. It is advisable to avoid eating these ornamental plants. The trade and the public should purchase and consume food from reliable sources.