Food Standards Australia New Zealand, the industry regulator in the Antipodes, has strengthened its cautionary stance on raw apricot kernels following findings showing that eating the seeds could pose a public health and safety risk to consumers.
Apricot kernels, which look like almonds, are found inside the stone of fresh apricots. They can contain cyanide, a poison that can kill humans in higher doses. Touted by some alternative health practitioners as a natural treatment for cancer, they are widely available at health food stores.
Study and submissions called for
In December, FSANZ launched a study on the risk of cyanide in raw apricots, and called for submissions on the matter, the results of which will be released midway through this year.
To this end, FSANZ and the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries looked at a range of foods that naturally contain a chemical that can be broken down after eating to release cyanide.
FSANZ, at the time of the study began, said it had “new information” to prompt changes to earlier guidance. The findings from the study, released this week, warn of the dangers of consuming too many raw apricot kernels.
“Cyanogenic glycosides are found in a range of foods including cassava root, linseed, bamboo shoots and apricot kernels,” said FSANZ chief executive, Steve McCutcheon.
“After testing these foods and conducting a risk assessment, FSANZ found only raw apricot kernels can pose a health and safety risk and may require further action.”
The food agency has often voiced its concerns over the seeds over the last few years, although guidance has had only a limited effect on consumption of the seed in Australia and New Zealand.
“FSANZ has issued advice previously on raw apricot kernels and continues to advise consumers about the amounts they should consume. Adults should eat no more than three raw apricot kernels per day and children should not eat any,” said McCutcheon, adding that other apricot products, including those made with apricot kernels, do not present a risk.
Some consumers eat the kernels in the belief that the seeds can cure or prevent cancer. Cancer Council Australia, however, is adamant that they are not only ineffective at treating cancer but can also be dangerous.
“While we are providing consumer advice and education, FSANZ is also working on a proposal looking at how to manage the risk of cyanogenic glycosides in raw apricot kernels,” McCutcheon added.