Are Pine Nuts Making You Sick?

Update from the FDA on 1/18/2011: There have been about 100 complaints about “pine nut mouth” from 2/22/2009 to the present. There were two with reports of gastrointestinal illness and the rest were reported as taste disturbances which we would not consider an illness. In September 2010, FDA directed our field offices that receive complaints to collect samples and sent them to an FDA laboratory for research. We are hoping the information obtained from consumers and the analytical results will help to determine what causes the problem and if additional action is necessary. Please check back with me periodically as we attempt to learn more about this issue.
Siobhan DeLancey, RVT, MPH
FDA Office of Public Affairs

Have you experienced Pine Mouth?

A friend of mine just emailed to tell me she’s experiencing a bizarre medical phenomenon I’ve never heard of: “Pine Mouth.

According to a bunch of reports on the Internet, all in the past year or so, this odd disorder is linked to pine nuts imported from China. The symptoms seem to range from a metallic taste to a fierce aversion to the taste of most foods. My friend describes it as “a powerful sensation of disgust” that she can’t get rid of. Pretty much everything tastes awful, some foods even more horrible than others. Here’s what she wrote:

I was just eating them raw as a snack at night and it started the next morning, I think. I usually get pine nuts from Russo’s and haven’t had a problem, but I bought these at Star Market. They were much less expensive, so I was happy about that. And they tasted fine.

It’s a very powerful sensation of disgust you can’t get rid of. At first I tried brushing my tongue with my toothbrush, then listerine, nothing helps, and eating makes it worse.

In what I read online, the thing that tastes the worst is wine (I haven’t tried that yet). But it got me thinking it would be a great diet aid if you could control the dose (whatever IT is). The only thing that is good to me at the moment is water with lemon juice in it. Plain rice with nothing on it is OK. Sweet and salty are the worst. Citrus is awful, blueberries somewhat palatable. Anyway, it’s really an interesting experience, apart from the yuckiness..

Readers, let me know if you have had “Pine Mouth” or whether you’ve discovered anything about its origins.

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  • Victoria

    Eating pine nuts, whether toasted in pasta dishes (even pine essence found in some foods) causes me to feel very sick, I’m unable to finish my food or eat after, I’m not sure why as I love pine nuts, but even the smell or taste of them send me running to vomit there days… yeuk!

  • GJH

    I had this happen to me several years ago and I really thought I had some strange disease.  I don’t think that it’s just Trader Joe’s pine nuts because I bought mine at a Woolworth’s supermarket in Australia.  Any packet of pine nuts that I look at says that they are ‘packed in Australia from imported products’.  A lot of help that is! 

    Check this site:


  • Karli

    I had a few handfuls of Trader Joe’s pine nuts (tasted great) but today EVERYTHING tasted terrible.  I couldn’t enjoy or eat much of anything, even bacon and eggs tasted bitter  I tried all kinds of foods, fearing I was coming down with something serious, but everything tasted bitter, including apricots, wine, my favorite beer, fresh salad, lamb chops, grilled veggies, and water!  All disgusting!  Pine mouth is terrible and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone!  

    While searching for the location of my brain tumor online, I come to find that it’s a common problem with these imported pine nuts, the only new item in my diet for weeks… I am shocked by all the similar accounts of eating these pine nuts, and many are from the same source (Trader Joe’s).  Despite all these complaints, Trader Joe’s continues to sell these crappy pine nuts that give us pine mouth, a decision that exposes their choice for profit instead of concern for their reputation.If anyone finds a cure please post!  This is terrible!!!

  • Mdnghtdrifter

    Im am having the same symptoms but with dizzness and fatige with it also. WTF can i do to get rid of this taste!

  • momk

    My teenage son experienced horrible “pine mouth” after munching on pine nuts I had bought for a fish dish I was making for dinner 3 nights ago. Since then he has been unable to eat anything due to the disgusting metallic taste that occurs whenever he ate. Finally found an article today that suggested it was due to a “misfiring” of the nerve cells on the tongue so that the sweet taste buds on the tongue are no longer firing. In lieu of the sweet taste, bitter comes through. The author suggested a little sugar or artificial sweetener on the tongue or your food, or rinsing with some watered-down Milk of Magnesia. My son ran to the cabinet, grabbed the sugar bowl and covered his tongue with 2 teaspoons of sugar…et voila! He is cured!! Here is the link to the article I found:

    Hope it stays cured!

  • SJM

    This is happening to my mom and myself right now – we made pesto several days ago. However, I’m only having a mild reaction and my father has no bitter taste at all, whereas my mom gets a strong bitter taste with everything she eats. The back of our pine nuts bag says they’re from Korea or Russia (how could they not know??).

  • Anamaria1

    This occured to me last year…the taste was horrible and it lasted for about three weeks. I even went to a GI doctor thinking that I was terribly ill…he laughed at me when I came with my complaint…his first question was..”have you been eating pine nuts lately”? right on!

  • jl

    I had this experience about a year and half ago. I was mixing raw pine nuts in a pasta dish and the next day I had this pine taste in my mouth. I could not figure out what it was so I started looking online and found out that eating raw pine nuts can cause a bad taste in your mouth. I stopped eating the raw pine nuts and the bad taste went away in a day or so.