FDA Warns Of Potential For Cyanide Poisoning After Apricot Seed Company Declines Recall

Close-up of a halved apricot
Close-up of a halved apricot - Alvarez/Getty Images

It's fairly common knowledge that you should never eat apple seeds (as if you'd have the desire to) because of their cyanide content. Although, you'd have to eat a lot of them to put yourself in danger. When it comes to raw apricot kernels, however, some experts have claimed that eating more than three apricot kernels in a single sitting can put consumers at risk of cyanide poisoning.

Now, health-food brand Apricot Power is the subject of FDA backlash after the Commonwealth of Virginia Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services (DCLS) tested three samples of Apricot Power products and found unsafe levels of amygdalin in all of them. The items in question are three varieties of the brand's bitter apricot seeds. Per the FDA safety alert, these include the 8-ounce bags of California Select (lot number NGR FY24-015) and Organic Turkish Select Bitter Apricot Seeds (lot number NGR FY24-016), as well as the 16-ounce bags of South African Select Bitter Apricot Seeds (lot number NGR FY24-017).

Consumers should keep an eye out for the lot numbers to know whether their bag is part of the potentially-toxic batch. These products have yet to be pulled from shelves. They are still being distributed via the Apricot Power website and other sellers online. The FDA notified Apricot Power of the DCLS's findings, and the company refused to stop selling the affected products or issue a voluntary recall on May 8, refusing once again as of May 24 after a follow-up call.

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Apricot Kernels Are A Snack To Be Enjoyed In Extreme Moderation

Apricot Power bitter apricot seeds deemed unsafe by the FDA
Apricot Power bitter apricot seeds deemed unsafe by the FDA - FDA

Apricot fruit is totally safe to eat. We love it in apricot cardamom preserves and apricot-glazed pork chops. However, the pit at the center of the fruit is loaded with kernels. Each of them houses amygdalin and catabolic enzymes in separate compartments. Combining the two compounds (which can happen during chewing or digestion) creates cyanide.

The DCLS detected unsafe levels of amygdalin in the Apricot Power products. Ingesting them could lead to acute cyanide toxicity. Per the FDA, anyone who has the Apricot Power seeds should dispose of them and contact their doctor or state poison control center if they have eaten any. A similar scare occurred in Canada in 2021, when the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) found unsafe levels of amygdalin in raw bitter apricot kernels packaged by Wah Yan Tong brand. The FDA report did not mention any consumers thus far having become ill from ingesting the Apricot Power seeds.

Symptoms of acute cyanide toxicity from consuming amygdalin-rich apricot kernels can include chest pain or tightness, confusion, dizziness, eye pain, headache, nausea, difficulty breathing and shortness of breath, loss of consciousness, vomiting, weakness, seizures, coma, cardiac arrest, and even death. A study published in the Annals of Tropical Pediatrics found that symptoms tend to appear within 20 minutes to three hours after ingestion. Children may be especially impacted and require emergency care.

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