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Are Pine Nuts Making You Sick?

This article is more than 12 years old.

Update from the FDA on 1/18/2011: There have been about 100 complaints about "pine nut mouth" from 2/22/2009 to the present. There were two with reports of gastrointestinal illness and the rest were reported as taste disturbances which we would not consider an illness. In September 2010, FDA directed our field offices that receive complaints to collect samples and sent them to an FDA laboratory for research. We are hoping the information obtained from consumers and the analytical results will help to determine what causes the problem and if additional action is necessary. Please check back with me periodically as we attempt to learn more about this issue.
Siobhan DeLancey, RVT, MPH
FDA Office of Public Affairs

Have you experienced Pine Mouth?
Have you experienced Pine Mouth?

According to a bunch of reports on the Internet, all in the past year or so, this odd disorder is linked to pine nuts imported from China. The symptoms seem to range from a metallic taste to a fierce aversion to the taste of most foods. My friend describes it as "a powerful sensation of disgust" that she can't get rid of. Pretty much everything tastes awful, some foods even more horrible than others. Here's what she wrote:

I was just eating them raw as a snack at night and it started the next morning, I think. I usually get pine nuts from Russo's and haven't had a problem, but I bought these at Star Market. They were much less expensive, so I was happy about that. And they tasted fine.

It's a very powerful sensation of disgust you can't get rid of. At first I tried brushing my tongue with my toothbrush, then listerine, nothing helps, and eating makes it worse.

In what I read online, the thing that tastes the worst is wine (I haven't tried that yet). But it got me thinking it would be a great diet aid if you could control the dose (whatever IT is). The only thing that is good to me at the moment is water with lemon juice in it. Plain rice with nothing on it is OK. Sweet and salty are the worst. Citrus is awful, blueberries somewhat palatable. Anyway, it's really an interesting experience, apart from the yuckiness..

Readers, let me know if you have had "Pine Mouth" or whether you've discovered anything about its origins.

This program aired on January 17, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.

Rachel Zimmerman Twitter Reporter
Rachel Zimmerman previously reported on health and the intersection of health and business for WBUR. She is working on a memoir about rebuilding her family after her husband’s suicide. 



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