Why you shouldn't eat apricot and almond kernels
Apricot kernels contain cyanide and are potentially lethal, the U.K. government warns in an official statement urging people to avoid eating them.
The U.K. Food Standards Agency (FSA) has sounded the alarm over fears of a growing health fad in which some companies are marketing packets of ground apricot kernels to cancer patients, claiming they help treat the disease.
According to the FSA, bitter apricot stones and bitter almond kernels contain high amounts of a naturally-occurring substance called amygdalin, which contributes to the bitter taste and changes into the toxin cyanide when consumed. Variable amounts of amygdalin are also present in the sweet apricot kernels. Cyanide is a poisonous chemical which can cause nausea, fever, headaches, insomnia, thirst, lethargy, nervousness, joint and muscle aches and pains, falling blood pressure, and in extreme cases can be fatal.
The FSA's warning comes after a European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) study was published on the risks to human health from apricot kernels. Based on cyanide levels typically present in raw apricot kernels, the EFSA concluded that an adult who eats less than half of a large kernel could exceed the safe level. For toddlers it said the safe amount would be about half of one small kernel. The FSA's advice only applies to raw, unprocessed apricot kernels, bitter almond kernels and powdered forms. Apricot kernels and bitter almond kernels can be used as flavouring in some foods, such as persipan paste or amaretti biscotti. These products are safe to eat because the kernels have undergone processing and lead to no harmful risks from cyanide, the FSA states.