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Food Safety Focus (207th Issue, October 2023) – Article 4

Food Poisoning Caused by Consumption of Wild Taro

In August 2023, a patient received medical treatment at a local hospital for suspected calcium oxalate raphide poisoning after consuming wild taro and developed symptoms including shortness of breath, oral numbness and burning sensation of the mouth.

Taro is a popular food ingredient. However, wild taro may contain needle-shaped calcium oxalate raphide crystals. The raphides cannot be destroyed by washing or cooking and can become dislodged from the plant cells when chewed, causing instant irritation by puncturing the sensitive tissues in the mouth and throat. The rapid onset of symptoms including pain and swelling usually limits further intake, and therefore its effect on the body. Calcium oxalate in other shapes are less likely to cause irritation.

To avoid poisoning, do not pick and eat wild plants, including wild taro. Purchase vegetables from reliable suppliers.