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Apricot kernel decision due soon

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) wants to ban the sale of raw apricot kernels, which are touted as a cancer cure but can be poisonous if you eat too many.

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Apricot kernels have been promoted as a natural alternative therapy for cancer. However, there’s no reliable scientific evidence they work as a cure. The hydrocyanic acid in the kernels can cause cyanide poisoning.

Between 2003 and 2013, there were 20 calls to the New Zealand Poisons Information Centre about people who had eaten apricot kernels. Two kernel-selling websites we visited make no mention we could find of the health risks.

Tauranga-based website apricotkernels.co.nz sells 10kg bags for “when 5kg is just not enough”.

We also looked at apricotseeds.co.nz, which says “although there are many therapeutic claims for using apricot kernels - we do not endevour (sic) to make any claims”. However, it offers a free DVD called “Healing Cancer” with every 3 packs of kernels ordered.

Both websites sell 500g of kernels for about $50-$60. FSANZ could not say how much the industry is worth in New Zealand, but in Australia it is worth $600,000.

The ban has been supported by the Cancer Council Australia but is opposed by the New Zealand Food and Grocery Council, which has recommended mandatory labelling instead.

FSANZ is assessing submissions on its proposal and is due to make a decision on 16 September. Ministers responsible for food regulation will then be notified of its decision and can decide to adopt, amend or reject the standard or ask for a review.