17 Potentially Deadly Foods That Might Be in Your Kitchen

Your kitchen doesn’t seem threatening, but some foods can hurt or kill you. Although eating most of these common items in lethal quantities would be hard to do, you should know which ones are deadly if consumed incorrectly. One popular fruit can actually kill you with cyanide from its seeds (page 10).

1. Honey

Manuka honey in a black jar
Pesticides take the sweetness out of honey. | iStock.com/yasuhiroamano
  • Contains: glyphosate, a pesticide used in weed killers

The FDA tested honey samples from various U.S. locations and found levels of this pesticide, reports The Huffington Post. The main ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate is the most widely-used weed killer in the world. Tested honey samples all contained residue of the chemical. Some even showed levels double the limit allowed in the European Union.

Next: The fluffy stuff you get with Chinese takeout

2. Rice (all varieties)

Basmati rice cooke
Rice | iStock.com/vm2002
  • Contains: arsenic, a toxin that causes vomiting, stomach pain, and vertigo

You’ll find the highest levels of arsenic in brown rice and the lowest levels in instant rice. “You’d have to eat nearly 7 million servings of rice — in one sitting — to achieve death by rice,” says Bon Appétit. However, you should still be careful. “Consistent exposure to low doses of arsenic over time can lead to heart disease and bladder cancer.”

Next: A vegan’s go-to actually contain toxins.

3. Cashews

bowls of almonds, hazelnuts, and cashews sitting on a wooden counter
If you don’t want poison ivy symptoms, watch out for raw cashews. | iStock.com
  • Contains: urushiol, a toxin that causes severe itching

Buy raw cashews with caution. The New York Times reports that the shells contain urushiol. The toxin, also found in the stems, roots, flowers, and berries of poison ivy, causes an itchy reaction. That’s why “cashews are sold shelled and processed at a temperature high enough to destroy urushiol.”

Next: This delicious pie ingredient could kill you.

4. Rhubarb

pickled rhubarb
Rhubarb contains an acid that’s also in bleach. | iStock.com
  • Contains: oxalic acid, a chemical in bleach and anti-rust products

Rhubarb, an ingredient in pies, cocktails, and jams, contains oxalic acid. Cooking the leaves won’t remove the acid. And eating the leaves causes vomiting, convulsions, and even death. However, a 130-pound woman would have to eat 10 pounds of rhubarb leaves to show symptoms of poisoning, says Bon Appetit. Unless you bake giant desserts, your strawberry rhubarb pie is safe.

Next: Bake your cookies carefully.

5. Nutmeg

spices
Nutmeg can have psychoactive effects. | iStock.com
  • Contains: myristicin, a psychoactive compound

The next time you bake, measure your nutmeg carefully, reports the New York Times. When consumed in large quantities, the spice can be poisonous due to myristicin. Nutmeg was used to end unwanted pregnancies in the Middle Ages. More recently, teens have had to go to poison control centers.

However, you don’t have to worry about your apple pie or hot cocoa. “It takes a fair amount of nutmeg — 2 tablespoons or more — before people start exhibiting symptoms,” reports the New York Times, which include out-of-body sensations, intense nausea, dizziness, extreme dry mouth, and a slowdown of normal brain function.”

Next: If this food sprouts, stop eating it.

6. Potatoes

potatoes
Green and sprouting potatoes contain a chemical that acts as a natural pesticide. | iStock.com
  • Contains: solanine, a chemical described as a “natural pesticide”

This compound is concentrated in potatoes that have begun to turn green and/or sprout, says Bon Appétit. Solanine poisoning can induce vomiting, diarrhea, and even cardiac arrest. However, a 100-pound adult would need to eat a full pound of completely green potatoes in order to show symptoms.

Next: Stick with the red, not green, varieties.

7. Tomatoes

Pile of Heirloom Tomatoes
Tomato leaves and green tomatoes can be toxic in high quantities. | iStock.com
  • Contains: tomatine, a chemical found in tomato leaves and stems

Tomato plants and green tomatoes — the kind we fry — contain tomatine, an alkaloid that’s harmless in small quantities. You’d need to eat at least a pound of tomato leaves to experience side effects. Tomatine poisoning is actually more common in dogs. If your dog exhibits excessive salivating, diarrhea, vomiting, and drowsiness, get them to the vet.

Next: This fungi can be no fun.

8. Mushrooms

Agaricus, in a bowl on a rustic wooden counter ready to be cleaned and washed for dinner,
Know what type of mushroom you’re eating. | iStock.com/budgetstockphoto
  • Contains: amatoxins

Mushrooms from the grocery store are fair game. But foraging for fungi yourself is risky. Thousand of mushroom species grow in North America, and about 250 kinds “are considered significantly poisonous,” reports Mother Nature Network. The death cap mushroom — which poisons and kills more people than any other mushroom species — contains amatoxins that destroy the liver and can result in organ failure, coma, and death.

Next: You’ll get way more than gas with these beans.

9. Kidney beans

Red bean on wooden table
Just four raw kidney beans could cause dangerous symptoms. | iStock.com/piyaset
  • Contains: phytohaemagglutinin, a toxic plant protein

Cook kidney beans thoroughly, especially when using a slow cooker. Pennsylvania State University says raw kidney beans have quite high concentrations of phytohaemagglutinin. Canned and cooked kidney beans are safe to eat, but even four or five raw beans can cause extreme nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Some people get hospitalized, but most recover within three to four hours.

Next: These fruits’ cyanide-laced seeds are deadly.

10. Cherries, apricots, plums, and peaches

Variety of stone fruits, including apricots
A cherry pit contains cyanide. | iStock.com
  • Contains: cyanide compounds

Many fruits, like cherries, apricots, plums, and peaches, have pits that contain cyanogenic compounds (chemicals your body can turn into cyanide). Whole pits aren’t usually poisonous but cracked or broken pits can be lethal. “A single cherry yields roughly 0.17 grams of cyanide per gram of seed,” explains Bon Appetit. “So, depending on the kernel, ingesting just one or two freshly crushed pits can lead to death.”

Next: You’d never guess this food is radioactive.

11. Brazil nuts

Bowl of mix nuts
Worried about radiation? Don’t reach for Brazil nuts. | iStock,com/margouillatphotos
  • Contains: radium

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission reports that about half of radiation we encounter comes from “inconspicuous household items” like smoke detectors and granite countertops. What tops the list? Brazil nuts. These nuts grow on trees with a deep root system that utilizes soil high in natural radium. This chemical is absorbed by the Brazil nuts, which can have radium levels 1,000 times higher than the levels in other foods.

Next: Monkeys and humans, beware!

12. Bananas

Bunch of Bananas
Bananas are a common source of radiation. | iStock.com
  • Contains: radium

“Bananas are such a common everyday source of radiation that there’s even an unofficial unit of measurement for radiation called the BED, or Banana Equivalent Dose, that’s used to illustrate foods’ levels,” reports Mental Floss. Like Brazil nuts, bananas are radioactive due to a compound absorbed by the tree’s roots.

Next: A pantry staple

13. Lima beans

selection of legumes
When raw, lima beans contain cyanide. | iStock.com
  • Contains: cyanide compounds

Raw lima beans have a natural defense mechanism. When spider mites attack the plant, it releases a cyanide compound to attract the mites’ predators and warn nearby plants. As NPR notes, the U.S. limits lima beans to “varieties with very low levels of the compound, but all should be handled with care.” To lessen the risk, cook them uncovered and drain the cooking water.

Next: Don’t swallow these seeds either.

14. Apples and pears

cluster of ripe, green pears on a table
Snow White wasn’t kidding about those poisoned apples — and pears. | iStock.com
  • Contains: cyanide compounds

Both apple and pear seeds contain compounds your body can turn into lethal cyanide. But you’d need about a quarter pound of apple seeds to harm a 150-pound person. The typical apple contains only eight seeds, so you would have to eat at least 25 apple cores to experience lethal effects.

Next: This unpopular berry will kill you.

15. Elderberries

Berries cheesecake
Raw or unripe elderberries can be poisonous. | iStock.com
  • Contains: cyanide compounds

The elderberry might not be the most popular berry. Most of us bake with blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries far more often. And that might be a good thing. It turns out raw elderberries are actually poisonous, according to Cornell University. And the University of Maryland reports that “raw or unripe fruit, as well as the leaves, seeds, and bark, contain a chemical related to cyanide, which is poisonous.”

Next: The preferred drink of most little kids

16. Apple and grape juice

Young female bar employee making fruit juice
Care for a little poison in your juice? | iStock.com/jacoblund

According to a Consumer Reports investigation, the apple and grape juice you buy from the grocery store probably contains arsenic. “In virtually every product tested, we found measurable amounts of total arsenic in its two forms. We found significant levels of inorganic arsenic, which is a carcinogen, in almost every product category, along with organic arsenic, which is less toxic but still of concern.”

And the organization points out a separate “analysis found that study participants who reported drinking apple or grape juice had total urinary arsenic levels that were on average nearly 20 percent higher than those who didn’t.

Next: Peel this fruit no matter what.

17. Mangoes

Mangoes
For some, eating a mango could be like eating poison ivy. | iStock.com

Another surprising food that has urushiol in common with poison ivy? Mangoes. The New York Times reports the compound shows up “in the skin of mangoes (and the leaves and bark of the mango tree), as I discovered when I ate a mango still in the rind and ended up with a blistering rash on my mouth.”

And the University of Illinois reports, “Although some people can have allergies to the flesh of mangoes, for most it is the mango’s skin.” If you’re sensitive to urushiol, you should avoid picking mangoes — and have somebody who’s not allergic peel your mango for you.