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May contain nut (kernels)

I quite often find myself reading food labelling, particularly if it's handy over the breakfast table. It's partly because I'm interested in what's in what I eat - but also because I had fun on a BBC TV show pointing out that it's perfectly possible, because of the mad way it's calculated, for food labelling to say that a product contains over 100% of a substance. (See the bottom of the post for my food labelling video.)

The other day, I was perusing the back of a packet of little amaretti cakes (not the hard biscuits) we'd been given and noticed an ingredient that stirred some vague memory: these little Italian cakes were 34% apricot kernels. Somewhere in the depths of my mind I associated these with cyanide - something no one really wants to discover in their coffee-accompanying treat.

I took a look online and discovered that while apricot kernels do not contain cyanide, they do contain 'the plant toxin amygdalin, which converts to cyanide after eating'. I didn't find this hugely encouraging. Now the Irish food safety website (it happened to be the first respectable one I found) recommends not eating more than 0.37 grams of apricot kernels a day for adults and says that children shouldn't eat them at all. The box contained 140g of product according to the packaging, so that should be about 47.6g of apricot kernels. There were maybe a dozen amaretti in total - making each one over 10 times the recommended limit. And there was no warning they shouldn't be eaten by children.

Of course, it's entirely possible that the kernels have been treated in some way to remove the amygdalin - though my suspicion is that this is the substance responsible for the 'bittersweet flavour' the box is proud of. But at the very least it would have been nice to have had some labelling to clarify what safe levels are.

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