Fri, 31 March 2023
The Daily Ittefaq

Everyday foods you didn't know could kill you

Update : 12 Apr 2022, 12:21

Any type of contaminated food could be life-threatening, but there are a number of foods around the world that require extreme care and precision during preparation to avoid causing severe illness or death.

Rinsing off fruits and veggies and fruits is a common practice to clear away pesticides, and thoroughly cooking raw meat is also hugely important. We bring you 12 everyday foods that can turn deadly if not prepared just right. Some of these foods are exotic delicacies that is not available in Bangladesh, while others are common staples in our pantry.

Apple Seeds

Apple seeds contain roughly 700 milligrams of hydrogen cyanide per kilogram, meaning that you'd need about 100 grams of the pips to take out a 150-pound person. That's nearly a quarter pound of apple seeds, sans actual apple flesh. Assuming that one apple seed weighs about half a gram, that means you'd have to eat your way through 200 pips. A typical supermarket apple contains about eight seeds, so if you really wanted to get cyanide poisoning you'd have to eat at least 25 apple cores in one sitting.


Ordinary potatoes, if consumed at the wrong time, can be dangerous. The leaves, stem, and sprouts of a potato contain glycoalkaloids, a poison found in flowering plants called nightshades, of which a potato is one.

If you leave a potato in poor conditions (as in too moist or bright, or you just let them sit out for too long) they will begin to sprout. It’s suggested to throw these potatoes away, even if you do cut off the shoots, as the poison may be in the potato if too much time has passed.

Scientists claim that a 100-pound person would have to eat 16 ounces of a sprouted potato to get ill, which is approximately one baked potato.

Bitter Almonds
There are two varieties of almonds, sweet and bitter and it’s the bitter ones you need to watch out for. Eating a few handfuls of raw almonds is enough to be fatal. Raw bitter almonds contain glycoside amygdalin, a toxin that breaks down into several chemicals, including cyanide, when eaten. Ingesting more than 50 wild, raw bitter almonds can be potentially deadly. Sweet almonds, the more common variety, still have trace amounts of amygdalin but not enough to be harmful.

Cherry Pits

Cherries have a small, hardened pit that surrounds their seed, also called a kernel. The kernels of cherry pits and other stone fruits contain the chemical amygdalin.

Amygdalin is a cyanogenic glycoside, a chemical that your body converts into the toxic compound hydrogen cyanide.

Hydrogen cyanide interferes with oxygen transport, potentially damaging essential organs like your brain, heart, and lungs.

This is the reason why cherry pits are dangerous to eat. However, the extent of the potential harm depends upon the amount of cyanide you’re exposed to.

Star Fruit

From affecting the nerves to kidney, it can badly harm the entire human body and the symptoms of poisoning by this fruit include hiccups, mental confusion, seizures and sometimes may even lead to death.

Studies show that eating starfruit can have a harmful (toxic) effect for people who have kidney disease. The substances found in starfruit can affect the brain and cause neurological disorders. This toxic substance is called a neurotoxin.

Raw Cashews

Cashews may be healthy, but we suggest you “don’t go overboard”. Eating more calories than your body need can lead to weight gain, resulting in high levels of LDL cholesterol. So, it is important to stick with moderate portions of cashews and according to your age and health, to avoid undoing any benefit. Also, eating too many cashews each day will leave little room for other important foods.

The cashew plant contains Anacardic acids, containing urushiol (powerful chemical irritants) so eating raw cashews will cause irritation and a sometimes painful rash of the people sensitive to the chemicals. Raw cashews contain urushiol- the same toxic chemical that is found in poison oak or ivy. Cashew poisoning is rare, but if urushiol is ingested at a high level, it can be deadly. So, when you visit the store to buy “raw cashews”, check that these nuts are not entirely raw and have been steamed. To remove urushiol, a rigorous steaming process is ensured. However, before this process, cashews are green!


The sap and peel of mangoes are highly toxic, although not specifically poisonous. Mangos can cause a dermatitis-type response very much like  poison ivy. Mango skin contains urushiol oil—the same substance in poison ivy that causes rashes. The peel can cause swelling or rash when in contact with the mouth and/or lips.
Because of its toxicity, you should never burn the wood of a mango tree. If you have an inflammatory condition, beware if your symptoms escalate after consuming a mango.


Nutmeg can also be extremely dangerous when taken in large doses. Containing a toxic substance called myristicin, moderate proportions of nutmeg can cause hallucinations, while larger doses can cause convulsions, palpitations, nausea, dehydration and death.

While mushrooms available in supermarkets are pretty safe to eat, mushroom fans need to be careful about what species' they are consuming as many varieties can be highly dangerous and even fatal. Around 100 species of mushrooms are said to be dangerous to humans, with symptoms ranging from headaches to seizures or even death. 

Red kidney beans
Red kidney beans are rich in plant-based protein, fibre, and essential vitamins and minerals; in their raw or undercooked form, they are also rich in phytohaemagglutinin, a toxic variety of lectin.

Phytohaemagglutinin can damage the gut wall and may prevent it from absorbing nutrients properly. Symptoms of poisoning may include diarrhea, abdominal pain, vomiting and headaches.

Dried red kidney beans must be prepared properly, which involves soaking for a number of hours and boiling for at least 10 minutes for safety.

In fact, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), cooking dried red kidney beans for less than 10 minutes at any temperature less than boiling can actually increase the toxicity five-fold, so beans are more toxic than if they were consumed raw.

Rhubarb, the bright vegetable often found in jams and pies, has a dark side. Its leaves, which should not be used in baking or cooking, contain oxalic acid.

Consuming too much oxalic acid can be fatal, though you would have to eat large quantities of rhubarb leaves (approximately 11 pounds) to die from it.

However, consuming small amounts in improperly prepared foods can cause a number of uncomfortable symptoms, such as a burning sensation in the mouth and throat, nausea, diarrhea, eye pain, difficulty breathing and red urine.

Oxalic acid can also cause kidney stones — which are hard deposits of minerals and acid salts that stick together in concentrated urine — which are known for causing severe pain, cloudy, red or foul-smelling urine, fever and chills.

Elderberries, which are native to Canada and commonly used in jams, pies, wines, teas, syrups and supplements, are safe to eat if they are fully ripe and properly cooked.

However, elderberry leaves, twigs and seeds contain potentially fatal levels of cyanide-producing glycoside (‘cyanogenic glycoside’). If elderberries aren’t fully ripe or strained properly when they are processed, they can cause nausea, vomiting and severe diarrhea.

If consumed in large quantities, glycoside may cause seizures, coma or even death; you would have to drink up to five glasses to be in life threatening danger, but just a cup of improperly prepared elderberry products could cause serious illness.


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