Apricot kernels being sold as cancer cure despite cyanide warnings

The kernel is the soft part inside the seed of the apricot. On average, each kernel contains about 0.5 mg of cyanide. Photo: Wayne TaylorRAW apricot kernels, which authorities say can cause cyanide poisoning, are being sold as an alternative treatment for cancer by a Victorian company.

Despite warnings by Food Standards Australia New Zealand about the dangers of eating the kernels, which have high levels of naturally occurring cyanide, ChiTree, based in the central highlands town of Harcourt, continues to sell them online. The kernels are also available in organic food stores and some Asian supermarkets.

Cancer Council Australia, which says there is no evidence the kernels have curative powers, wants them banned. ”If you eat a large enough amount of this stuff you essentially get cyanide poisoning,” the council’s chief executive, Professor Ian Olver, said.

”Many people think that if it’s derived from a fruit then it can’t be too harmful, but in this case it can be.”

Recent tests of kernels sold by ChiTree to a customer in Queensland who had to be admitted to hospital after eating them found high levels of hydrocyanic acid. ChiTree temporarily ceased sales and shut down its website but has since resumed business.

The company’s website now carries this warning: ”The consumption of raw apricot kernels may result in adverse reactions. Raw apricot kernels contain amygdalin, which releases naturally occurring hydrocyanic acid. This is toxic in excess. It is the advice of Food Standards Australia New Zealand and the Department of Health that they not be consumed. Please use responsibly.”

ChiTree did not respond to inquiries from The Sunday Age.

Another company, Oznatureshop苏州美甲美睫培训学校419论坛, which has been selling apricot kernels for 11 years, has temporarily removed the product from sale.

There are two types of kernels: bitter and sweet. The bitter kernel is the preferred choice for cancer sufferers using alternative treatments because it contains more amygdalin. Food Standards Australia New Zealand’s Lorraine Belanger said the agency was mainly concerned about the consumption of bitter kernels and was considering listing them as a prohibited food or imposing strict labelling requirements.

Berwick cancer survivor Paul Reid, who has been in remission for 14 years after eating 30 raw bitter apricot kernels a day as part of his treatment, believes a ban would disadvantage other cancer sufferers.

But Victoria’s acting Chief Health Officer Dr Rosemary Lester said only a small number of apricot kernels would need to be eaten to reach potentially unsafe levels of cyanide.

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