Something you may not know about me, but I am a bit of a foodie. Gourmet cooking is a hobby and I prepare gourmet meals every day. Whether it is Porkchops with caramelized onions and sweet potato gravy or Chicken Involtini stuffed with feta, golden raisins, proscuitto and collard greens. Oh yeah and Pine Nuts. As is customary, I snacked on a few while cooking. Yum. Wait. Not so yum. These just aren’t as good as I remembered. But, whatever, this is what we’re having for dinner. And it was fabulous when we ate it. However!
Almost two days later I started getting the most bitter, metallic taste that would just not go away. My nightly glass of cabernet was awful. Brushing my teeth didn’t get rid of it. Bananas Foster French Toast the next morning? Forget it. It was disgusting. Vitamin water was able to help, but only for a few minutes. What was going on??
Then I started borderline panicking, Can I somehow taste the infinitesimal amounts of Cesium 137 that has been found in our drinking water from the Fukushima crisis? No, of course not. Cesium 137, or Iodine 131 for that matter, are both tasteless and odorless no matter the amount. Why can’t I taste anything but metal!!! I don’t have metal fillings. Perhaps I have too much iron in my system? No, that’s impossible. OMG, what is it? Do I have salivary gland or tongue cancer? Am I dying????
It never even occurred to me that it was related to the nuts because I used to eat them often, although it has been about a year or so though. The package sat on the counter and I occasionally snacked on them for the last week. And still this taste remained. NOTHING helped, no amount of sweet, spicy, or any other taste in between could get the taste out of my mouth for more than a second or two. I have been complaining to my boyfriend about it since the onset and he is not experiencing any complaints. He only had the cooked nuts within the Chicken Involtini, I had been eating them raw and I have eaten a lot more than he has.
I didn’t Google anything about it until today (because I can simply no longer handle it!) “bitter taste in mouth after eating + symptoms”. Then I found a news report (‘Pine Mouth’: How Pine Nuts Can Ruin Tastebuds for Weeks) about Pine Mouth and pine nuts from China. I thought when they mentioned Chinese pine nuts that I was exempt because I remembered seeing “Pignolias” (In festive red, white and green no less) on the front. Of course, I mistakenly assumed that they were from Mexico as I often get Mexico-grown dried spices. I mean, how often do we look for the origin or specificity of less “important” ingredients. If a recipe calls for Japanese eggplant, of course I would get Japanese eggplant . If the martini called for an English cucumber, no other would do. Obviously growers in the US produce these eggplant varieties, but some produce items are actually imported, such as the mango. India produces half of the world’s mango supply. But I digress. My point is that now I have to check the origin of a nut to determine its quality and if it is even a foodstuff to begin with? The rumor is that China may be exporting non-edible pine nuts. Well, lo and behold I looked on the package and they are from China, distributed by Stater Bros.
So I decided to write a blog on it and then I came across this blog article: Pine Nuts Cause Bad Taste in Mouth: Pine Mouth Syndrome and some more news reports and personal accounts of the very same thing. I had tried calling Stater Bros but Customer Service is closed on the weekends. What is interesting is the FDA started getting an alarming number of complaints in 2009 to present. I don’t recall this EVER happening to me until last week. Gourmet cooking is my hobby and now I can’t taste anything at all but metal. I made one my favorite Italian dishes and I was mortified. The reports have said that people have not experienced relief until anywhere from 1 week to 4 weeks after ingestion! I will be complaining to the FDA and calling Stater Bros Distribution first thing Monday morning. I know it isn’t Stater Bros’ fault, but SOMEONE isn’t doing their job somewhere along the line, whether that be in customs or USDA or elsewhere.
Number to call and complain to the FDA: http://www.fda.gov/Safety/ReportaProblem/ConsumerComplaintCoordinators/default.htm
I have read more from all over and it appears that a lot of the couples which shared the same meal, the person who was cooking (ergo, SNACKING during cooking. I mean who doesn’t snack on Pine nuts when they’re cooking?) was the one who suffered the most, if not the only person of the two. It is the same with us. He only had the ones that were toasted AND cooked within the chicken in the oven. I was a glutton.
I just can’t wait for this to be over. Honestly, no one really knows why, how or from where, but for now, just be sure you know where the nuts came from. Thus far, it is suspected to be from China. Just do your own research and also visit the above links. The blog article, Pine Nuts Cause Bad Taste in Mouth: Pine Mouth Syndrome, is excellent so be sure to visit. And in the meantime, hold the nuts!
I thought this was Interesting, “Non-edible pine nuts of the species pinus armandii and pinus massoniana originating in China have been imported onto the local market.” (Malta)
UPDATE: April 4, 2011
I contacted the FDA Southern California Complaint Coordinator (949) 608-3530. I will be sending them the product and they are going to be getting back to me.
I also spoke with the store manager for my local store and told her about it. She said she’d pull them from the shelves but I doubt she can until corporate contacts her and gives her permission.
I contacted Stater Bros. Markets Customer Service: (888) 992-9977
at 5:21 PM today to make report and spoke with the operator (Anna) and was told that the buyer, Jim Musgrave, would contact me. I gave her some information but I am sure that he will have to do his own investigations. I assure her it wasn’t dangerous, just that it caused a bad taste in the mouth for a while.
I get the feeling people think I am nuts but the facts are there, it’s happening everywhere and I am thrilled to announce my sense of taste has almost returned entirely! I was half tempted to eat them again just to be double sure and to document the amount eaten to cause the disruption, the onset time, the symptoms and the time that it took to return to normal. But I thought to myself, nahh. I’m just not that curious.
UPDATE: April 5, 2011
I had only one weird taste after I initially ate my first bite of spaghetti and meatballs last night. One of my favorites. I was disappointed but after another bite it seemed to be fine.
Frank Lee, the Southern California FDA Complaint Coordinator called me today and took my report. I am again awating another call back. Thank God this isn’t dangerous. Which reminds me, after witnessing a vehicle flip on the highway that had a toddler and a mosth as passengers other day I tried to call 911 and had a busy signal several times. Another lady was able to get through. Madness.
UPDATE: April 8, 2011. No call back from the FDA. Seriously.