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.