UK Man Hospitalized for Cyanide Poisoning After Consuming Cherry Pits

Matthew Crème, from Lancashire, a father-of-three, suffered cyanide poisoning after consuming three cherry pits (cherry stones in British English).

Mr. Crème, 28, a call center coach, had purchased a box of Suntrail Farm cherries from Tesco and had been enjoying the treat, when, out of sheer curiosity, he decided to try a pits.

Curiosity got the “better” of him when he cracked a seed to find another inside which, according to him, tasted like an almond with a "cherry flavor". Thinking no further, he ate it whole and continued to eat two more.

Symptoms Apparent Almost Immediately

Within 20 minutes of consuming the three cherry seeds, Mr. Crème developed a headache and felt extremely tired. After an online search, he realized the potential for poisoning. Wasting no time, he rang 111, the emergency number in Britain. An 111 operator informed him that three seeds could be enough to kill him.

Georgina Mason, his partner, assisted him to the Blackpool Victoria Hospital where he received an antidote.

Luckily, he survived. But what is it about the apparently harmless cherry seeds that can be so lethal?

A Surprising Amount of Cyanide

According to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) , cheery stones stores the compound amygdalin, a naturally occurring substance which when ingested, breaks down to yield hydrogen cyanide, a highly lethal toxin.

Cyanide poisoning can cause nausea, headaches, thirst, lethargy, fever, nervousness, low blood pressure, and in extreme cases, death.

Amygdalin dose of as little as 1.5mg per kg of the body weight of a person can act as a fatal dose.

Amygdalin content of red cherries is 3.9mg/g of seeds while that of apricots is 14.4mg/g. Greengage plums score the highest with an amygdalin content of 17.5g/mg of seeds.

Following the incident, Mr. Crème agreed to allow the doctors to use his case as a reference for similar cases in the future. This was the first time his doctors had treated cyanide poisoning resulting from fruit seed consumption.

Should Cherry Packaging Be Accompanied by Warnings?

Mr. Crème has also called for warnings to be present on packaging since he believes that something so severe needs to be there on packaging to prevent future mishaps.

The FSA claims that the non-edible parts of fruits like cherry seeds are not intended for consumption. Alcoholic beverages made from stone fruits also contain low levels of cyanide which is regulated to ensure the products are safe for consumption.


Dr. Oishimaya Sen Nag is a freelance writer and editor from Kolkata, India. She loves to participate in wildlife conservation activities and to explore new places and cultures.

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