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Hong Kong health care and hospitals

Ginkgo seeds warning after Hong Kong woman poisoned from eating 50 to 60

  • Centre for Health Protection says consuming large amounts can even result in loss of consciousness and death
PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 November, 2018, 8:00pm
UPDATED : Monday, 05 November, 2018, 8:49pm

Hong Kong health authorities on Monday warned residents not to snack on too many ginkgo seeds in a single serving as they investigated a rare case of poisoning.

A 38-year-old woman fell ill and was admitted to United Christian Hospital in Kwun Tong on Sunday after eating 50 to 60 fried ginkgo seeds bought from a street hawker in Prince Edward.

About an hour and a half later she began to feel dizzy, nauseous, tremors, a headache and abdominal pains, according to the Centre for Health Protection.

She was treated and eventually discharged the same day in a stable condition.

The centre said ginkgo seeds contained natural neurotoxins, and overeating raw or undercooked ones could induce symptoms such as vomiting, irritability and convulsions anywhere from one to 12 hours after ingestion.

“In severe cases where large amounts have been taken or in susceptible individuals, loss of consciousness and death may occur,” a spokesman for the centre said.

“It has been reported that ingestion of 10 to 50 pieces of cooked ginkgo seeds at one time can cause acute poisoning in humans. Unripe and uncooked seeds are more toxic.”

Ginkgo nuts, the kernel of the ginkgo fruit, are commonly consumed across East Asia. In Hong Kong they are often shelled and salt-roasted as snacks or mixed into desserts such as bean curd sheet and egg white sweet soup.

The centre urged the public not to consume raw ginkgo seeds and to limit their intake, especially for children, the elderly or those suffering from poor health.

“If symptoms of poisoning develop, they should immediately consult medical professionals for advice and prompt treatment,” it said.

The centre is investigating.

Dr Lau Fei-lung, chairman of the clinical toxicology board at the Hong Kong College of Emergency Medicine, said ginkgo poisoning cases were rare in Hong Kong and the risk could be reduced if nuts were removed of their seeds, processed and cooked properly.

“Any amount more than 50 is definitely dangerous but it depends on the individual too,” he said. “Children, for example, should really be eating far fewer than that.”