Apricot kernels and apple and pear seeds are unsafe to eat

Apricot kernels and apple and pear seeds should not be eaten. Find out why and about the ban on the sale of raw apricot kernels.

A toxin is in the kernels and seeds

Apricot kernels and the seeds of apples and pears contain a naturally occurring toxin (amygdalin). When eaten, this toxin can react with stomach enzymes and release a poison (cyanide) in the gut. This can cause stomach ache, illness, and can be fatal, especially for children. Apricot kernels, in particular, should not be eaten.

Fresh apricots with the stone inside can still be sold and eaten. The kernels cannot be sold separately.

Apricot kernels are safe to eat in processed products, like almond biscuits. The baking process reduces the level of the toxin.

You should avoid eating seeds from apples and pears, which also have the toxin. Accidentally eating the occasional seed is not generally a problem.

Sale of raw apricot kernels is not allowed

Due to food safety risks, the retail sale of raw apricot kernels is banned under the Food Standards Code.

The ban doesn't apply to apricot kernels used as ingredients in food for sale, as long as the final product is safe.

Find out more

Consumer advice about the risk of eating apricot kernels – Food Standards Australia New Zealand

Proposal P1016 – hydrocyanic acid in apricot kernels and other foods – Food Standards Australia New Zealand

Combined survey and risk assessment for cyanogenic glycoside – Food Standards Australia New Zealand

Who to contact

If you have questions about food safety of apricot kernels and fruit seeds, email info@mpi.govt.nz

Last reviewed: