Cyanide poisoning possible, Health Canada warns in recall for sold-in-B.C. product

Recalled Armeniacal apricot kernels are shown in photos provided by CFIA.

A recently updated recall warns that consumption of a product sold in British Columbia could cause cyanide poisoning.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said in an update Thursday that certain apricot kernels are being recalled due to presence of the natural toxin amygdalin. 

Amygdalin is a naturally occurring chemical compound that is found in plants and seeds, including those of apricots.

When amygdalin is ingested, it can release cyanide in the body. Health Canada says humans can tolerate and eliminate small amounts of cyanide, but large amounts can be fatal. 

Symptoms of poisoning include weakness and confusion, anxiety, headache, nausea, trouble breathing, loss of consciousness and cardiac arrest. Seizures are also possible.

Because apricot kernels are a known source of amygdalin, Health Canada established a regulatory maximum level for total extractable cyanide back in 2019. The new rules came into effect on Jan. 25, 2020, so products purchased before the date should not be consumed by children, and adults are advised not to have more than three a day, ground up with other food.

The products included in the latest recall contain excessive amygdalin, CFIA says. They should be thrown out or returned to the store where they were purchased.

The recalled products are "Armeniacal," with the product codes 590080 and 590090.

They were sold at Nutri Herbs in Coquitlam and Nice Herbs in Surrey, between Jan. 21, 2020, and April 30, 2020.

The recall was triggered by CFIA testing, and further products may be added.

Earlier this month, several other products were identified in an apricot kernel recall, some of which are sold across Canada

The March 12 notice includes:

  • Apricot Power bitter raw apricot seeds, UPC 7 528303 370840, best before January 2021 – sold nationally
  • Chen-Chen dried apricot north almond seeds, UPC 0 20616 99366 4, best before Nov. 10, 2021 – sold in B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan
  • Double Happiness dried apricot seed mix, UPC 6 26430 00016 0, best before Dec. 30, 2020 – sold in B.C., Alberta and Manitoba
  • Earth Notions raw bitter apricot kernels, UPC 6 89076 42028 0, best before April 2020, April 2021 – sold in Ontario and across Canada online
  • Natural Herbs Trading Co., Ltd. bitter apricot kernels, no UPC or best before date – sold in B.C.
  • Organic Traditions dried bitter apricot kernels, UPC 6 27733 00900 3, no best before date – sold across Canada
  • Surrey Natural Foods organic bitter apricot kernels, UPC starting with 0 201614, best before dates up to and including March 12, 2021 – sold in B.C.

There have been no reports of illnesses associated with the recalls.