EFSA responds to media reports on recently published report on Cyanide in Linseed

The EFSA Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM) have recently published a report which analyses the presence of cyanogenic glycosides in foods other than raw apricot kernels.  They agreed that an acute reference dose 15 (ARfD) of 20 µg/kg bw was (established for cyanide) was applicable for all acute effects of CN regardless of the dietary source.

The aim of this report was to evaluate the risks to human health related to the presence of cyanogenic glycosides (CNGs) in foods other than apricot kernels. Foods such as almonds, linseed (a.k.a. flaxseed) and cassava all contain chemically bound cyanide which can be released by the process of grinding or chewing – which brings degrading enzymes are brought into contact and cyanide is released. Cyanide is readily absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract and rapidly distributed to all organs.

Several media reports misunderstood this sentence in the report:

Taking into account all uncertainties a risk for younger age groups cannot be excluded if grounded linseed (e.g. when put in a blender) is consumed.”  (2054-2056)

They understood that a teaspoon of grounded linseed could pose a significant health risk if consumed by small children.

EFSA has provided a clarification to Food Navigator to clarify that the above quote was taken out of context and was to reflect a highly conservative estimation of the dosage that ensures the dose is very safe under that specific amount of flaxseed consumption.