British shops warned over customers eating daffodils

Bulbs mistaken for onions and leaves for Chinese vegetables, warns health body

Public Health England has urged British supermarkets to shift daffodils away from fruit and vegetable stands after dealing with 27 suspected poisonings linked to daffodils in the last year. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Public Health England has urged British supermarkets to shift daffodils away from fruit and vegetable stands after dealing with 27 suspected poisonings linked to daffodils in the last year. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

William Wordsworth

, but today daffodils have been known to land people in hospital.

Public Health England has urged British supermarkets to shift daffodils away from fruit and vegetable stands because customers are mistaking them for vegetables.

“Unfortunately there are rare occasions when the bulbs are mistaken for onions, and the stems or leaves are mistaken for a type of vegetable popular in China, ” medical director of Public Health England Prof Paul Cosford told supermarket executives.

The mistake was most usually made by immigrants with poor English, unable to read shop signs, said Prof Cosford, who has asked supermarkets to consider “taking some simple steps to reduce risks”.

In the last year, the public health body has dealt with 27 suspected poisonings linked to daffodils, or narcissi, and 63 cases over the past six years.

“Poisonings go up in spring and peak in March,” Prof Cosford told supermarkets. “That is why we are asking you, along with all other major supermarkets, to ensure that daffodils, both the bulbs from which they sprout and the cut variety too, are displayed well away from the produce or fruit and vegetable area.

Daffodil itch

Florists frequently report daffodil itch, the symptoms of which are dry skin, fissures, scaling and erythema, which is blamed on the exposure to calcium oxalate in the sap.

The chemical in the bulb is lycorine which can be poisonous if ingested. Symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhoea, dizziness, eczema, dermatitis, hoarseness, itchiness, nausea and vomiting.