Friday 2 September 2011

The Friday Column - Pine Nut Mouth

Pine Nut Mouth

The curious case of pine nut mouth.....

One Monday in May 2010 I was eating my usual breakfast cereal and with each mouthful thought it tasted decidedly odd. It had a horrible bitter taste. Drinking a cup of tea a while later the strange taste was still there and by lunchtime I could barely eat. I had a strange metallic taste in my mouth which became worse if I ate anything.

After lunch I called my husband to ask him if had noticed anything funny about the breakfast or lunch that he had eaten but he hadn't.

The thought crossed my mind that I could be pregnant as I remembered when I was pregnant with Aaron how odd a cup of tea tasted in the early days.. A couple of days later the foul metallic taste was still there and I really didn't want to eat or drink anything at all.

So I googled and found out that the cause of a bitter metallic taste in the mouth could indeed be pregnancy..but I also found out that people were suffering with it having consumed pine nuts.

Interesting...the Saturday before I had eaten a prepacked Asian style vegetable/salad combination from Marks and Spencer and it had contained pine nuts!

It all made sense now. Symptoms appear 12 - 48 hours after eating the pine nuts. The bad news was that this horrid metallic taste was going to last up to 2 weeks! The good news was that it had no lasting effects.

Every day I would hope that it would be the last, I found it so difficult to eat as nothing tasted like it should. Any enjoyment I had of food had literally been banished overnight. Eventually the taste subsided and my taste buds returned to normal.

So what causes it ?

Press reports from as early as 2009 attribute pine mouth to cheaper pine nuts exported from China as opposed to the more expensive (usually) Italian pine nuts. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) have said they are not dangerous to health and have found no reason for the reaction. It could be that the oil contained in the nuts have gone rancid due to poor storage but this is just speculation. It doesn't affect everyone, some people are more susceptible to pine mouth hence the reason why my husband had eaten the same salad as me but wasn't suffering.

It has affected a significant minority, it was featured in Which magazine a few months after I had suffered with it and is still happening as it was again featured this year. Apparently Supermarkets are making more of an effort to ensure that they use suppliers who source their nuts from Europe.

So beware - if you eat pine nuts it could happen to you!

Have you suffered from Pine (nut) mouth?

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