Pine Mouth

by Rachel on January 22, 2011

Bad, Bad Pine Nuts

My prior posts have been about things I want to put in my mouth.  This post is about not wanting to put ANYTHING in it.  I’m currently suffering from what I believe is “Pine Mouth.”  Pine Mouth seems to have appeared on the scene about ten years ago, coincident with the move to import cheap pine nuts from areas other than the Mediterranean.  A number of reputable media outlets have done stories on Pine Mouth including NPR and ABC News.  Wikipedia, my favorite source for all pieces of knowledge outlines the theory that there are strains of pine nuts that are simply inedible and should not be sold along with the edible varieties.  Consuming the inedible plants can cause a range of problems, the worst of which is a lingering metallic taste in one’s mouth that makes pretty much everything taste like licking the outside of an old metal fence post.  It appears, according to the reputable news sources and countless other blog posts, that the biggest culprits in selling inedible pine nuts are Trader Joe’s and Costco.  The bad nuts are generally from China, Korea or Russia and they, at least from my experience, look quite a bit different from the pine nuts of old.  A decade ago when pine nuts were prohibitively expensive and came only from the Mediterranean, the nuts themselves were large and voluptuous.  Round and curvaceous they looked positively bursting with good things.  The new, non-Mediterranean pine nuts (the ones you’ll see at the likes of Trader Joe’s or Costco) are small, discolored and the opposite of curvaceous or voluptuous.  They look mighty underfed, and scrawny.

Scrawny but they pack a punch

I’m now on Day 10 of Pine Mouth.  I can tell you that the whole experience leaves me wanting NEVER to eat another pine nut.  It isn’t worth the risk.  And I’m left wondering why on earth Trader Joe’s, Costco and other retailers continue to carry pine nuts from providers who mix the inedible nuts in with edible ones.  Doing my own completely inaccurate research I asked my Facebook friends (430 of them) how many of them had experienced what they believe was Pine Mouth.  I had 18 respondents, some of whom had suffered multiple times before they sorted out that pine nuts were the culprit.  I’m also convinced that many people suffer Pine Mouth and wrongly blame some other source for the experience.   My sister (whom I love and adore) thought a new vitamin regime was to blame.  My beloved sister is a pine nut nut.  She hoovers pine nuts the way the rest of us eat chocolate.  She stopped taking her new vitamin and low and behold, the bitter taste went away.  I recently convinced her to try the vitamins again – guess what? – NO BAD AFTERTASTE.  I’m certain that with her weekly (nay daily) pine nut habit she happened upon a bad lot coincident with the beginning of her new vitamin regime and BAM, Pine Mouth blamed on vitamins rather than the actual culprit.

So, my fine food blog reading friends – add your voice to mine and tell Trader Joe’s, Costco and other supermarket retailers that they need to stop selling pine nuts from providers who toss cheap inedible pine nuts into the mix.  The misery of eating them is an inexcusable by-product of corporate laziness and pursuit of the bottom line.  Maybe when we all stop eating pine nuts they’ll finally wake up.  If you’ve experienced Pine Mouth or any other food related problem and you want to file a complaint with the FDA – Click this link – FDA Complaint Form.

Final note to readers – if you’re looking for recipes featuring pine nuts – I am no longer your gal.  Pine nuts be damned.  I’m done with them for good.

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Val Ragland January 22, 2011 at 7:23 am

Hi your website is awesome, I was wondering if maybe once per month we could use you for one of our treat recepies on our treat traders blog! We are a group of nurses that are trading treats and recipes at work and blogging about our adventure, most of the treats are healthy but we are redesigning our website and on occasion want just an out right guilty pleasure, we would also like to put your button on our blog as well, I just think that you site is so well done. Thanks for even thinking about it, we are new to blogging and really trying to form a nice base of networking friends, our blog is http://www.treattraders.blogspot.com

Hugs,
Val Ragland RN BSN

Rachel January 22, 2011 at 7:33 am

Val: I’m fine with that. Go right ahead. Good luck with your site. I love the photos that are up today. Cheers, Rachel

Maria Wilson January 22, 2011 at 10:19 am

Rachel, that sounds awful – thanks for the warning. I read that the FDA is investigating the recent jump in reports of pine mouth. So if you haven’t already done so, you can file your complaint here: http://www.fda.gov/Safety/ReportaProblem/default.htm

Rachel January 22, 2011 at 10:39 am

Thanks Maria – I’ll go into the post and add your link.

Rachel

Nuts about food January 24, 2011 at 4:06 am

I had never heard of that, but then again I live in Italy, so I guess we have the good kind of pine nuts here. How awful! However, once you are better for a LONG while and you are sure of the origin of your pine nuts, don’t give up on cooking with them…pesto will never be the same! Hope you get better real soon.

megi January 29, 2011 at 4:34 am

How awful! I had not heard about it, what an informative post, thank you for sharing all this information!

momk February 4, 2011 at 10:10 am

Just in case you are still suffering from that horrible “pine mouth” (my poor son got it when he munched away at the pine nuts I had bought for a fish dish 3 days ago), we found a remedy that has worked for him (so far!). An article I read this morning suggested a small amount of sugar on his food or his tongue. He ran to the cabinet and covered his tongue with 2 teaspoons of sugar…et voila! Metallic taste is gone and he could eat his breakfast with joy!! yay! If Pine Mouth is due to something binding permanently onto the bitter taste receptors of his tongue, then I suppose he will have to “re-treat” before the next meal (and until the affected taste buds slough away). If, however, it is due to a temporary misfiring of the nerve cells (such that the sweet taste receptors do not fire), then maybe this sugar “overdose” will do the trick!
Anyway, here is the link:
http://bodyodd.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2010/06/03/4452626-pine-mouth-syndrome-leaves-a-bitter-taste
Good luck!

Rachel February 4, 2011 at 10:29 am

Dear Maggie:

I’m 95% over it. There are just a few things that seem to still taste not quite right, coffee being one of them. Thanks for the link!

lisa May 3, 2011 at 11:48 am

TRADER JOE’S – A HORRIBLE COMPANY

THEIR DAYS ARE NUMBERED NOW –

thank you for writing this information. unfortunately, i only found it after it happened to me. i purchased russia/ korea pinenuts from trader joe’s in la jolla, ca.

they do not care my mouth tastes like metal every time i eat anything or drink anything – INCLUDING WATER – AND THAT THE BAD TASTE IN MY MOUTH LASTS FOR HALF AN HOUR! trader joe’s said they sell too many pine nuts and make too much money on these pine nuts to remove them from the shelf for the few number of complaints they get and the law does not state they have to stop selling them..

i have shopped at trader joe’s since their first store on arroyo parkway in pasadena – NO MORE WILL I SHOP AT THEIR STORES.

i reported them to the FDA and the Los Angeles Times.

SHAME ON TRADER JOE’S – A DISGUSTING COMPANY!

Lisa
Del Mar, CA

Rachel May 3, 2011 at 3:03 pm

Lisa: I still shop at TJ’s. I too wish they would stop selling pine nuts from Russia/Korea/China. They, however, are not the only ones. Virtually all of the pine nuts sold in the US are from these countries. You can find European pine nuts at fancy specialty stores. If you go into your standard grocery store – their pine nuts will also be from Russia/Korea/China, as will the ones you find at Costco. If you quit shopping everywhere that continues to sell such pine nuts you wouldn’t be able to buy groceries. I think some of it is that certain people are more prone to this response. Rather than quitting TJ’s I recommend NEVER eating pine nuts again. It seems a safer way to go.

Good luck. Mine went away after two weeks.
Rachel

lisa May 3, 2011 at 7:38 pm

RACHEL,

You are so kind to respond to me – that means a great deal.

Can you write to me at my e-mail so I may write you back? I will let you know what is in the works regarding this because complaints have recently increased exponentially.

Know that the FDA is getting ready to publish a guidance document. You’ll be able to find it on their website fda.gov go to food section, type pinenuts

Lisa

Lori Miller June 6, 2011 at 9:59 am

My husband and I ate pine nuts purchased at our local Giant Grocery store, from the Aurora company and we both got pine mouth, but mine seems to be a worst case than his. Neither of us knew what what causing the bitter taste, so I googled it and discovered that lots of people are having this problem. I spoke with the manager of the store and returned the pine nuts. No one at the store had heard about this problem. She suggested calling Aurora directly, which I did and alerted the person in charge. He was very familiar with Pine Mouth, in fact, he had it himself. Aurora thought they had fixed this problem by purchasing the Siberian white pine nut instead of the red cedar nut, but since they are still producing the product in China, there is evidently a problem with the folks in China who seem to think they can sell bad products and lie to the consumers in the United States. I’m on day 7, so hopefully this awful taste will go away soon. If you’ve had Pine Mouth or know someone who has it, you contact the company and submit a complaint.

mary June 26, 2011 at 3:20 pm

Thanks, this solves my mystery. I thought I was coming down with something and not know it. Everything tasted bitter even water. I didn’t realize until 5 days later that my husband had the same symtom. He thought he was exposed to some chemical poisioning at work. At the time I couldn’t figure what we were exposed to or what we ate to cause this until I googled bitter mouth taste. Mystery at last solved, but what’s next? The worst part, I can’t even enjoy food anymore. I am a deathly worry that this may not go away and I don’t want to be blamed for destroying my husband’s taste buds all because of some stupid pine nuts from Trader’s Joe’s . Come Monday, I am calling the FDA to report Pine Mouth.

Rachel June 26, 2011 at 4:04 pm

Oh Mary, I’m so sorry. The only good news is, this too shall pass. I told my sister recently that I planned NEVER to eat pine nuts again. She thought I was nuts (pine nuts), but I really can’t imagine going through pine mouth a second time. No thanks. Mine lasted almost three weeks. Good luck to you and your husband!
Best,
Rachel

Shelley August 24, 2011 at 8:37 pm

Pine mouth syndrome seems to be a hit or miss phenomenon. The culprit pine nuts seem to affect some people and not others. I experienced pine mouth late 2010 after eating a salad containing pine nuts from a local deli. My workmates ate the same salad and had no problem. Maybe the chemical in the nut that causes it affects only some people like that chemical that’s in artificial sweetners. (Some people get a lingering unpleasant aftertaste from sweetners and others don’t.)
I have been too nervous to put a pine nut near my mouth since my experience. The bitterness lasted 2 weeks and the only way I could eat or drink was to pour sugar over everything. My sympathy to all fellow sufferers.

Allison September 8, 2011 at 10:19 am

Thanks for posting, I’m glad to know this “pine mouth” is a real thing…I am totally experiencing it! I thought at first it was from the arugula I had used (made a arugula/basil pesto), but after some research am realizing that’s not the case. What’s a good remedy? It’s really awful!

Rachel September 10, 2011 at 4:02 pm

I believe that the only remedy is patience and time!! Good luck Allison. Hang in there. It will get better soon. I promise.

Cristina September 13, 2011 at 5:10 pm

I am a lawyer in San Francisco and we are looking for individuals who have experienced an aftertaste or other adverse reactions from eating Pine Nuts from Trader Joe’s. Particularly, we are seeking San Francisco Bay Area folks who can provide us with information about when and where they purchased the pine nuts, the symptoms they experienced, whether they still have the pine nuts, and whether they saw a warning on the package of pine nuts. If you can provide any information, please contact me at cristina.rubke@sflaw.com or 415 773 7379.

Rachel September 14, 2011 at 5:19 pm

Christina: I’m in Los Angeles. I bought mine at the Trader Joe’s in Westwood. I don’t still have them. There was no warning on the package. The symptoms I experienced are outlined in my post.
Best,
Rachel

Toni September 27, 2011 at 5:07 pm

I got pine mouth about a year ago after spending a week at a raw food retreat that served a cole slaw made with a dressing that contained raw blended pine nuts. The slaw was delicious and I had no inkling that it was to blame for what later happened. After I returned home EVERY single food I ate tasted bitter and awful….I tried brushing my teeth, mouthwash, mints….nothing worked so i went to google and typed in “bitter taste in mouth” Boy was I shocked when a gazillion entries came up describing the culprit…PINE NUTS!!!!
I must have read the info off of twenty sites that night, sme of which decscribed the various miseries that the afflicted suffered. Mine lasted about 3-4 days and it was extremely unpleasant. a few sites came up with conjecture about the cause of the problem but I found nothing definitive. since then I have not eaten a single pine nut and i LOVE pine nuts. The majority of the sites did say that the fat juicy light colored nuts were safe but that the small darkly colored “organic” ones were not OK. I may try some of the bigger light ones if I can find them or if some wise seller states they are “guaranteed not to cause pine mouth’..LOL

gabrielle October 30, 2011 at 1:04 pm

Lori Miller,
Anytime a corporation tries to empathize by saying they too suffered this affliction, they are just trying to let you think they are addressing it so that you don’t contact FDA. It is a sleazy tactic. Aurora is still selling the bad variety of pine nuts as i found the hard way a few days ago.

Patricia January 4, 2012 at 2:43 pm

I know this is a year later comment but I only just came to see your blog today and just wanted to add how I was relieved to see someone actually wrote and experienced the same syndrone I had in December 2010. I also bought the pine nuts from Trader Joes and made pignoli cookies. A number of people ate my cookies but it was just myself and my brother who had the metallic pine mouth problem which lasted for a few weeks. I brought the nuts back to my local TJ”s and printed out information I had found at that time of the issue with Pine nuts from China. The manager didn’t express any concern and just gave me my money back. They are still selling those nuts. I did comment to TJ’s website but never heard anything from them. This year Dec. 2011 I was given a bag from CostCo. I made the cookies again and have eaten only a couple. I haven’t found the same problem but not tempting fate by eating any more. I did give them out over the holidays but no complaints. I want to thank you for writing such a great blog and making others aware of this problem. Happy and Healthy New Year 2012!

bob johnson February 7, 2013 at 12:42 pm

First, I LOVE Trader Joe’s. I’ve shopped there for years and continue to shop at a great grocery store! With that said, I bought pine nuts at Trader Joe’s a couple months ago.. I ate most of the bag in salads with no ill effects. However, twice I popped a handful into my mouth before bedtime. The 2nd time was lead to two WEEKS of my taste buds telling me everything was bitter and metallic. A horrible experience. the only way i figured it out was finding other people’s comments on the internet. Googled “metallic and bitter taste” and up popped a very long story about a person eating pine nuts and 2 days later the bitterness occured. Same for me. I tossed the nuts in the trash. Later I found a 2nd bag in the drawer and before tossing those it the trash I saw on the bag printed clearly, “may cause bitterness” or something like that. Here is my complaint with Trader Joe’s. If they did more research, they would probably find that pine nuts are not the problem. Most likely it is the source: that is, chemicals used (China) or substituting inedible pine nuts for edible. If i recall on the package it said the nuts come from Russia, Vietnam and someother place. Trader Joe’s should get their pine nuts from a reputable source!!!!

By the way, it took several weeks before all the bitterness went away!!!

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