Can I Eat It Filter: Sweet apricot kernels
October 4, 2015 4:30 PM   Subscribe

My father bought a box of four mooncakes, the five-kernel type, containing mostly cashew nuts, but also sweet apricot kernels. Is this okay to eat?

I found this question previously on AskMe. Bitter apricot kernels are known to contain amygdalin, which breaks down into cyanide when eaten.

I want to know how distinct the flavor of bitter apricot kernels (the ones you might want to worry about) is from sweet apricot kernels. If I bit into a bitter apricot kernel, would I know it?

The sweet apricot kernels have imparted a flavor that is almost more citrusy than almondy to the mooncake. I looked at the ingredients (though I am skeptical about translated ingredient labels on processed Asian food) and there is no lemon or orange zest listed.

Secondly, if we eat a little bit of these cakes (e.g. 1/8 per person) a day over a week, is the amygdalin an issue? I would think it isn't, because these cakes were imported legally (as far as I know), but suppose somebody binges and eats all four cakes at once (a difficult feat)? There are probably less than 15 of the whole apricot kernels in each cake, though I haven't taken a whole one apart to find out -- this is an impression from previous servings.
posted by bad grammar to Food & Drink (4 answers total)
Do you have a picture of the ingredient list? That would help if you want more detailed info about what these are.

I would generally assume that a food object is going to be made from food. So, yes, if these are moon cakes with a traditional recipe and made by a professional bakery it seems really strange to imagine them being poisonous. Like... People go to the bakery and buy them and eat them. (If a family friend went out and collected his own ingredients to hand-make them for the first time I would be more open to skepticism). Is this just because it says "apricot kernels"?
posted by Lady Li at 4:59 PM on October 4, 2015 [9 favorites]

David Lebovitz delved pretty deeply into the research in 2009, and some of those links are broken now but the ones that work AND are from health authorities of varying kinds are kind of meh on them, though they almost all admit that there's probably not anyone actually dying from eating them, but then again you can't rely on China for reliable reporting (and also the words for almond and for apricot pit may be interchangeable) so, I suppose I would personally take Health Canada's advice:

It is the opinion of Health Canada that apricot kernels should not be consumed for medicinal or natural health purposes. There is a concern about the potential health effects associated with large numbers of bitter apricot kernels being consumed on a regular basis, particularly by young children. Health Canada advises adults of the general population who do eat bitter apricot kernels as flavouring to consume no more than three bitter apricot kernels per day, ground and mixed with other foods.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:21 PM on October 4, 2015

Apricot Kernels in Germany - (Traditional usage, importation, and commerce).

Skimming, it looks like sweet apricot kernels are fine.
posted by sebastienbailard at 6:50 PM on October 4, 2015

I think that it's really common for "almonds" to actually be sweet apricot kernels. I really wouldn't worry too much.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 3:32 AM on October 5, 2015

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