March 14, 2011
In the past year FDA has received a number of consumer complaints regarding a bitter metallic taste associated with pine nuts. This taste, known as "pine mouth," typically begins 12 to 48 hours after consuming pine nuts, and lasts on average between a few days and two weeks. It is exacerbated by consumption of any other food during this period and significantly decreases appetite and enjoyment of food. The symptoms decrease over time with no apparent adverse clinical side effects.
In response to increased consumer complaints, FDA developed a detailed questionnaire, and collected and analyzed samples from some consumers submitting complaints. The Agency found that the majority of pine nuts associated with "pine mouth" were eaten in the raw state (either as snacks or as a component of salad or pesto sauce). It also found that consumers did not detect a rancid or off-taste when eating the pine nuts. Finally, FDA was able to confirm that "pine mouth" is an adverse food reaction to pine nuts that is clearly distinct from a typical food allergy.
FDA continues to analyze consumer complaints to identify the potential causes of "pine mouth" and to determine whether the severity of symptoms and likelihood of developing them is related to the amount of pine nuts consumed. FDA will continue to monitor this problem and keep the public posted regarding any new findings.
Consumers experiencing "pine mouth" may contact the FDA District Office in their area. For a list, go to the Consumer Complaint Coordinators page at http://www.fda.gov/Safety/ReportaProblem/ConsumerComplaintCoordinators/default.htm.