/ Food & Drink

Bitter taste of ‘pine mouth’ lingers on

Pine nuts in pan

Do you suffer from a metallic taste in your mouth? Have you recently eaten pine nuts? You’re likely suffering from ‘pine mouth’ syndrome. The problem lingers on, despite a list of approved exporters being available.

I haven’t eaten pine nuts for ages as I’m too scared to deal with the horrible aftertaste that’s affected so many.

Ever since we wrote about the phenomenon, we’ve had a continuous stream of comments and emails complaining about “pine mouth” symptoms.

In short, pine mouth is a bitter, metallic aftertaste caused by eating inedible pine nuts from China. You’ll find that it’s often worse after eating and drinking, and can in some cases, lead to nausea and stomach problems.

Pine mouth complaints continue

Last year, measures were reportedly put in place for Chinese authorities to stop the illegal mixing of edible and inedible pine nuts, but it seems like the problem is still rife. Commenter Nic complained of the symptoms:

‘My husband and I have both been experiencing this bitter after taste whenever we eat and drink. I would never have thought to link it to the small sprinkling of pine nuts we had on our salad.’

Chris described the bitter taste as being ‘like walnut skins or grapefruit pith’ – a taste that Joseph has been suffering from for far too long:

‘This is my 9th week with “pine mouth”, I assume, as I have carried out a barrage of investigations to exclude serious disease, all negative. […] I have tried all remedies to no avail.’

Following this influx of complaints, we contacted the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to ask what was being done to sort out this problem. A spokesperson told us that ‘There is now a list of accredited Chinese exporters to buy pine nuts from’.

Are retailers using the list?

Yet, when we contacted the main supermarkets to see if they were aware of this list and using it, there was little consensus. Sainsbury’s, The Co-op, Tesco and Waitrose told us that they now only use suppliers from FSA’s list. Morrisons told us that it only imports two varieties of pine nut, neither of which is associated with pine mouth.

However, Asda said that it had approached the FSA for the list but hadn’t yet received it. And M&S was liaising with the Chinese authorities directly but also hadn’t received the list.

This lack of communication seems crazy. If the list is available, why haven’t all the retailers got it? Why should consumers have to suffer? We’ve told Asda and M&S where they can access the list you might be pleased to know.

But how long will it take for this list to filter down to shop floor? Pine nuts have a pretty long shelf life, so it’s not clear whether supermarkets have taken all ‘pre-accredited’ pine nuts off their shelves. I don’t think I’ll be returning to my love of pesto and pine nuts any time soon.

Instead, I’m going to follow Hannah Joliffe’s advice by toasting sunflower seeds for my salads. But if you’re not willing to give up your pine nuts, have some Medicinal Charcoal tablets to hand, as recommended by commenter Janet – she found they alleviated the bitter aftertaste.

wendy says:
5 September 2011

I ate sainsburys pine nut and spinich salad on friday evening and on sunday woke up with a headache and a nasty taste in my mouth, it was a hundred times worse when i ate, so spent most of the day hungry cause everything tasted so bad. So glad a typed in ‘nasty taste in mouth’ but amazed how many people had the same symtoms. I hope it doersn’t last too long and will be steering well clear of pine nuts from now on. I have contacted sainsburys, awaiting a reply

My wife had the same type of salad from Sainsbury’s in Gloucester on friday 2nd of Sept that DJ reported above on the 3rd of Aug as being a problem and now has “pine nut mouth”. So clearly either the list mentioned in the above article isn’t accurate enough or Sainsbury’s aren’t following it. She reported it to Sainsbury’s customer services yesterday who didn’t seem at all interested and said they would “discuss it with the manufacturers”. Did DJ report it to anyone else?

Angela says:
7 October 2011

I have also had this bitter metal taste in my mouth for almost two weeks now. It’s so frustrating as it seems only time will ease the symptoms. I’m glad to have found all these sites though, it’s reassuring to know that I’m not the only one!! My pine nuts were from Tesco and only bought a couple of weeks ago….the”safe” list of suppliers doesn’t seem to be valid.

Kirsty says:
13 October 2011

I bought my pine nuts from Tesco this weekend, the taste in my mouth is vile. I called Tesco and apart from offering me a refund, she could not help. I was given a customer complaints email to contact, but why are they not bothered where they get there products?

Becky says:
22 October 2011

hmm, seems like Tesco’s have a dodgy batch in. I’ve just sent off a complaint, as I have pine mouth now since yesterday pm. not pleasant at all. Have also reported this to the FSA.

Belle says:
24 May 2014

Were these the tesco whole food range pine nuts by any chance ?

I’ve had pine mouth for four days which started three days after eating chinese pine nuts bought from Sainsbury’s. Absolutely revolting taste – more like pesticide than metal and doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Glad I discovered this forum as i thought an old filling may be the cause but dentist said teeth were fine! I’ll be contacting trading standards and FSA in next few days. Did anyone find that charcoal tablets helped at all?

Brenda Aldrich says:
16 December 2011

I put some pine nuts in home-made soup about 10 days ago and next day had terrible taste in my mouth, especially after eating. Was really pleased to discover on line what was wrong and that I would recover. I have never seen warnings or discussion anywhere before suffering myself. The nuts were purchased from Tesco or Holland & Barrett and mixed in a jar, so I don’t know which were responsible. This should be publicised and if an inedible variety is being sold, this should be banned.

trevor says:
7 March 2012

i recently brought some asda’s own fruit juice and have been left with a irritatting horrible bitter aftertaste…and its not just fruit that tastes horrible…its also disgusting so called spaggetti and meatballs from heinz…for a company that has been going food for decades how can they make such horrible food?
i think i’m better off starving than buying and eating disgusting so called good food from asda ; (

Angie says:
15 April 2012

I have had this dreadful taste in my mouth since November! Five months! I can only relate it to eating Brazil nuts. I haven’t eaten any pine nuts at all. I fist ate the Brazil nuts in November 2011 when the bad taste took hold. Gradually it faded a little and then in March 2012 I ate some mixed nuts from Tesco and the foul taste is back with a vengeance. I have to eat or drink constantly to keep it at bay and it keeps me awake at night. My doctor just shrugged her shoulders. I have read about something called ketosis – a condition usually experienced on the Atkins diet which is when a lack of complex carbs cause the body to eat its own fat for energy (yuk) but I haven’t been dieting (far from it, I eat all the time!). It seems that so many people are really suffering because of this condition and yet the medical advice is clean your teeth or go to a dentist – I am sure we have all tried both to no avail. I am really ‘down in the mouth’ about this miserable condition as I am sure many others are too

Cheryl says:
31 August 2012

As a fellow pine mouth sufferer, I have been avoiding pine nuts from China for about a year now. Waitrose used to stock pine nuts from Italy, but now stocks no less than 4 different types of pine nuts but all from China. Even my local deli only stocks pine nuts that come from China. So does anyone know where Italian pine nuts can now be purchased?

Worried1 says:
5 February 2013

Ate a whole bag of sainsbury’s pine nuts today and have started to feel very strange so googled and found this discussion. Do you know if Sainsbury’s are actually selling safe pine nuts now or some kind of blend? They were definitely the stubbier Korean/Chinese variety in the bag i bought today. II eat European pine nuts all the time and don’t get any problems at all. Would have expected better from Sainsbury’s.

Sabrina mo says:
23 February 2014

You should add ALMONDS to this list of nuts as I’ve had all the same symptoms with this nut too. It tasted so bad / bitter that I spat in out directly into my bin. Few days later ended up with a bad metallic taste in my mouth, nausea, diahorrea, stomach cramps, shaking, insomnia and panic. Thought it was my gut parasites playing up or ingestion of Apple cider vinegar in a homemade broth. Googled for symptom and connected it to almond ingestion, rather than pine nuts. Has anyone tried activated charcoal / aloe vera to help with symptoms? Also gargling with sodium bicarbonate/salt? Taking lemon in water and ginger tea is supposed to relieve it. Just not what I needed with GI problems on top.

Albert Dangles says:
30 May 2014

It’s still a problem. I bought Tesco’s own brand Pine Nuts (100g, sourced from China) a few days ago and am now suffering.

Clare Denholm says:
30 October 2014

Thanks for this article as it solves the mystery of the horrid bitter taste in my mouth. Though most of the information seems to be a few years old so I am not sure if it should no longer be an issue?

I bought some pine nuts from Tesco a few weeks ago and now have this bitter taste in my mouth that gets worse when I eat. I also felt very sick overnight one night despite it being hours after I ate. This seems like the most likely explanation as I have no other symptoms or conditions listed on medical sites.

Unfortunately I no longer have the packaging to check the source but I shall be going back to the store and see what they say.

Monica says:
23 December 2014

I am so glad too that I found this thread as I have experienced this mysterious revolting bitter taste in my mouth. I am now sure this is linked to some Sainsburys pine nuts I had in a recipe and then a few on their own. I ate them a few days ago.
Just checked the packet as I have them and they were made in China.
It’s a horrible feeling and not the kind of thing you want just before Xmas day – am not looking forward at all to Xmas dinner.
I am going to go back to Sainsburys with the packet and talk to the manager after xmas.

Monica says:
24 December 2014

sorry that should have been Tescos not Sainsburys. Avoid Tesco pine nuts!

Alison Roozbehan says:
27 September 2015

I had this at least 4 years ago, reported to sainsburys where the salad with Chinese pine nuts came from, they were pretty generous give me vouchers etc, but can not believe this is still happening, I have got it again after eating a pasta spinach pine nut dish from M&S . Only one reason they. Don’t do anything about these substandard nuts from China, price!

I have the syndrome after snacking on a 150g bag of Tesco pine nuts, BB Jul 2015, L4304A 900 2 (13:40) Produce of China

Dan says:
20 July 2015

What a relief to find this article and fellow sufferers. I had a pesto sauce from Aldi around a week ago and nothing I eat or drink has tasted right since. I feel better now that I know what it is.
Is there any kind of FSA enforcement in place yet, if so Aldi need to know don’t they?

I’ve just developed the bitter taste in mouth problem after having some Waitrose pesto on pasta. It’s really nasty and I’ll be trying all sorts of ways to get rid of it! Glad to have found this site though, as I thought it was an after effect of having just had the flu. The pesto is going in the bin. Definitely worse after eating anything and especially after sweet foods and drinks.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

I stopped buying pine nuts when this first became an issue. It really should be classed as food poisoning and treated with the same seriousness as other cases, particularly as the symptoms seem to linger for months in some cases. There is legislation to prosecute those who poison us with inedible food, perhaps there should be a couple of test cases to jog the industry into action.
I have no doubt that chemists can tell us what causes “pine mouth” and it should be possible to screen for it when accepting consignments of pine nuts and any other suspect product for sale. We need to be able to take things from the supermarket shelf without fear that they will harm us. It won’t stop us eating the wrong food, but at least that’s our choice of diet.

ADA says:
4 March 2016

I had a pack of mixed nuts from Co-op and today it’s my second day of pine mouth. Good news: a certain Dr Wang suggests to gently clean the back of the tongue with a spoon (the chemicals of the pine nuts form a thin plaque on the tongue that reacts with food): this helped a lot.
Bad news: Co-op completely ignored my polite email and I find this quite offensive.

I had Pine Mouth Syndrome about 5 years ago. Fortunately, I already knew about the problem so I immediately knew what it was and I have never knowingly eaten them since. I got it again about 6 weeks ago – apparantly from eating a lot of home-grown parsley in a pot from ASDA, which I cannot explain. So far as I am aware the cause has never been explained although it does seem to be only a problem with Chinese nuts. It seems that a chemical attaches to the taste buds and stays there, constantly restimulating them. I treat it by brushing my tongue when I brush my teeth. Also, pineapples contain a proteinase so I get a chunk of fresh (NOT tinned) pineapple, chew it to a mush, then let it sit on my tongue for about 5 minutes to disslve of the top layer. I do it several time a day and make sur it goes to the back of my tongue where the bitter receptors are. It really annoys me that packaging is not obliged to say country of origin so we can choose Mediterranean pine nuts if we wish.