Did you know killer poisons could be lurking in your pantry? In these everyday, average foods, there are hidden compounds that could be fatal once ingested.
Of course, really any food could be poisonous if you’re not preparing it right. Leaving chicken partially uncooked, not properly washing your knives, and committing other cooking mistakes could put you and your family in very real danger of contamination. Follow these tips for avoiding food poisoning to keep you and your family safe.
But even if you do take the necessary precautions, it’s possible to come into contact with risky chemicals and toxins without even realizing it — because they’re hiding in parts of some of our favorite foods.
It’s a different situation with, say, a poisonous mushroom. I mean, who’s really eating mushrooms off the street? But these items are likely traveling dangerously close to your mouth daily. Viruses, bacteria, and even cyanide are threatening your consumption from safe spaces like your vegetable drawer and pantry. Even your spice cabinet isn’t safe. Find out which foods in your home could actually kill you, before it’s too late.
OK, admittedly this one is pretty rare. But you can find it in your grocery store. It’s sold canned — because it’s illegal to sell the fruit fresh in the United States. The reason it’s on the watch list is because of its killer potential. If ingested before fully ripened, an ackee contains a toxin in its flesh called hypoglycin, responsible for dozens of cases of vomiting and poison in Jamaica.
You might want to rethink eating your almonds raw. Advocates for the health of raw almonds over the roasted variety recommend it because of the oils used during roasting. However, the amount of oil that remains on the roasted almonds you’re eating is minuscule — and negligible when it comes to nutritional value.
In their rawest, right-off-the-plant form, almonds are filled to the brim with cyanide. The almonds you buy at the store have gone through a specialized, specific heat treatment to make them safe for consumption. It takes a lot more than roasting to fix the problem. If you ever come across some almonds in the wild, do not eat them. If you do buy some, though, there are tons of delicious ways to use them in recipes.
Eating apple seeds whole won’t kill you, though they probably won’t taste great. But crack one open with your teeth and you’re in danger of toxicity. The seeds contain amygdalin, a compound that produces cyanide in the body. Don’t be too worried, though — you can still eat dangerously close to the core without any worry. Apple seeds are small. You would have to thoroughly chew and swallow more than 200 seeds to experience any real danger.
The “raw cashews” you buy had better not actually be raw — if they were, they’d be loaded with a chemical called urushiol, also found in poison ivy. Consumption of raw cashews can be fatal, especially for those with an allergy to poison ivy. Luckily, cashews you buy have been treated carefully. Just don’t get creative and try to grow your own. Grow one of these unusual herbs instead.
The vegetable is used as a common flour replacement in gluten-free products. If that’s how you’re consuming cassava, you’re totally fine. The plant goes by many names, including arrowroot, tapioca, and yucca. The root, by any of its names, can be instantly deadly if prepared incorrectly. It’s also dangerous eaten raw — but we’re not sure why you would ever want to. In both of these cases, it can turn into hydrogen cyanide, which is the stuff they use in chemical weapons. Not the best for eating, as you can probably imagine.
Ever heard the legend of a spoonful of castor oil? Used for thousands of years as a labor inducer and laxative, the oil does have scientifically proven health benefits. The beans, however, are deadly dangerous. Just one or two of the beans can release enough ricin, a toxic substance that’s been investigated for potential use in chemical warfare, to kill an adult. It wouldn’t be the first time a dangerous food was used for war.
Don’t panic if you swallow one whole — but bitten open, a cherry pit has enough hydrogen cyanide to poison and kill you. Read more about why these fruits’ pits, and those of peaches, are secretly deadly here.
Remember the infamous "cinnamon challenge”? Yeah, it’s a terrible idea — though maybe not as bad as some challenges teens tried in 2018... The American Association of Poison Control Centers actually issued an official warning against taking the cinnamon challenge in 2012, when the trend hit its peak.
The warning is entirely founded — cinnamon makes it really difficult to swallow due to its drying effects. If you did try the cinnamon challenge, you know what we mean. Eating pure cinnamon causes many to cough up and inhale large doses of the spice, which can cause serious injury to the mouth, throat, and lungs. For some, the effects led to hospitalization. If you’re looking for a fun, food-based challenge, try one of these five undefeated ones instead.
It all depends on how you cook the egg — and there are at least 50 ways to do so. But no matter how you crack it, any part of the white that’s been left undercooked is possibly infested with salmonella. There are so many delicious recipe to make with eggs; just make sure your egg stays safe! Sunny-side up is especially risky. But these egg cups are probably salmonella-free.
Honey can usually work as a great sugar replacement. In its most natural, raw form, though, honey is chock-full of toxins, and they very well may kill you. More than just one teaspoon of unpasteurized honey could be fatal. The toxins, called pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs), can cause liver damage and are suspected to lead to cancer. Luckily, most honey is pasteurized properly, but raw honey from small vendors should be consumed with caution.
This innocuous legume is a frozen food favorite for many health-conscious consumers. They can help with digestion and muscle growth, and reduce your risk of heart attack. But eat them raw and you’re in for a very bad time. Also known as butter beans, they contain levels of cyanide that could be dangerous. Make sure you cook your beans thoroughly to avoid getting poisoned.
A couple in 1986 ate some pasta and both collapsed, requiring hospitalization. No one could figure out what had happened until “the husband revealed that he had accidentally added one-third of a 30-gram spice jar of nutmeg to the meal whilst cooking it.” How the couple could stand to eat it is beyond us, but the proof is in the pasta. It’s totally poisonous. Large doses of nutmeg could also get you high — if you ask us, steering clear of ingesting too much of any hallucinogenic substance is probably a good call. To overdose on nutmeg, you’d need to ingest just over four teaspoons.
Let’s take a moment to be grateful that all potatoes aren’t poisonous. A world without french fries… What kind of world would that be? Luckily, our starchy white potatoes are safe. But catch a smidge of green in one of those bad boys and you’d better throw it away immediately. Stressful growing conditions or exposure to light can cause potatoes to develop chlorophyll, which turns them green. Chlorophyll, of course, is perfectly safe — but those same conditions lead potatoes to generate high levels of toxic solanine, which can cause neurological damage and even death in significant doses. Some anxious moms even check the insides of potato chip bags before letting their children eat them — there could be a green chip!
Grandma’s strawberry rhubarb pie just got a whole lot less cute. Consume with caution — the stalks are delicious, but the leaves of this flavorful plant have the capacity to kill. They contain oxalic acid, a compound found in bleach and other harsh substances that can prevent your gut from absorbing nutrients. It can cause kidney stones and, in high doses, convulsions and death. Maybe just double-check grandma’s eyesight — you don’t want her to accidentally miss a leaf dropped in her pie.
Can carbs kill? When it comes to rice, they actually might. Rice contains trace amounts of arsenic, a poison used in the construction of lasers and the preservation of wood that’s somehow made its way into the food supply. Side effects of eating arsenic include diarrhea, vomiting, vomiting blood, blood in the urine, hair loss, stomach pain, convulsions, and (you guessed it) death. But you’d have to eat literally tons of rice before you consumed a lethal dose. Some sources say you’d need 7 million servings to kill. You’d die from a stomach explosion first!
Mercury poisoning is very real, despite how little we protect ourselves against it. People eat raw tuna in excess every day — there are entire dishes dedicated to it. Whether raw or cooked, many large fish like tuna are very high in mercury, a poison that can have life-threatening side effects such as damage to major organs, high blood pressure, damage to the nervous system, and more. This doesn’t mean your lunchtime tuna roll will make you drop dead, though. It takes a large dose of mercury to poison — which would mean eating a whole lot of sushi. Do you think it would be worth the risk for the best sushi in America?
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