Posted in Permanent Fail, Phlogiston at 2:01 pm by George Smith

Here’s a news story from a marginal source that just leaves one speechless.

Scrabbling around in the underbrush for anything that will grab eyeballs, the reporter for something called “io9” whose motto is “We come from the future” does the poisons found in foods thing.

This was a subject of great interest to the neo-Nazi right and survivalists of the Eighties, people who busied themsevles making up samizdat texts on how to poison the IRS auditor or local postal worker with stuff they could find in their kitchen.

The genesis of it was in the idiot’s notion that vanishingly small amounts of toxic chemical moieties in vegetables can somehow be fashioned into weapons.

And with that notion one eventually arrives at the idea that if you just shave enough green stuff off potatoes, you’ll have enough solanine to kill your nosy neighbor or others you suspect are coming for your guns, gold and pemmican supplies. Except there’s never enough.

Or that if you crunch up enough apple seeds or peach pits you can have cyanide which is released from tiny amounts of amygdalin.

All this tripe wound up in things like The Poisoner’s Handbook, published over twenty years ago.

A decade later it passed into the hands of everyone else worldwide.

And at the beginning of the war on terror the same idiot home poisoner’s knowledge was found in the scribbled notes of Kamel Bourgass, the only defendant convicted in the infamous London ricin trial.

Like journalist Esther Inglis-Arkell, Bourgass had the fool idea that you could get workable amounts of cyanide from seeds. She just puts this foolishness on a news site; Bourgass actually went to the trouble of collecting cherry stones.

Inglis-Arkell’s article reads:

The fruit mentioned isn’t dangerous, but it houses a danger. The seeds [of apricots, cherries and apples], when ground up or even bruised, produces hydrogen cyanide. Yes, the pill that they gave spies to kill themselves if they got captured might have been made from ground-up almonds.

No, now put on the pointy hat and go sit in the corner.

Worse, she tries to drag in ricin, found in castor seeds. Since she doesn’t know that ricin is a protein, she thinks it’s found in castor oil.
Which it isn’t.


You might think you don’t eat these, but you do. They’re most famous for being in castor oil, but they’re also in most sweets like chocolate and processed candies. So what? So they contain ricin … So the next time someone gives you a box of chocolates, it could be that they’re trying to kill you on a day too sunny to carry an umbrella.

One is left speechless at the complete failure of an educational system and the inability to keep the results far away from web publishing.

Ricin detection in food has been a goal of many security businesses, the FDA, and Homeland Security since 9/11.

Here is a paper on detection of ricin — and other poisons — intentionally added to chocolate, by scientists from the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Nutrition in Maryland.

It was published in 2005.


  1. Chuck said,

    June 11, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    Does no one remember Laetrile? The cancer cure made from apricot kernels because they have the highest concentration of amygdalin? Wasn’t the basis of the claims for Laetrile that someone had discovered a primitive tribe that ate large quantities of apricot kernels and who were cancer-free?

    So, I dunno; maybe we should encourage those kernel-crushers.

  2. George Smith said,

    June 11, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    Yeah, laetrile was banned mostly because it didn’t work sometime when I was an undergrad. I suppose if you ate enough purified amygdalin it could theoretically kill you. However, since it’s quite unpalatable I think you’d throw up before enough of the poison actually was absorbed. However, as it was used it was just a quack cure.

    Trivia — Laetrile makes an appearance in the Watchmen movie. Rohrschach discovers Moloch is taking it for incurable cancer. In the movie he calls it amygdalin. I forget what it was in the original comic book. Might have been called Laetrile.