Foods That Can Make You Sick Or Kill You

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Cherry pits
> Principal danger: Hydrogen cyanide

It’s not the sweet flesh of the cherry that’s dangerous; it’s the hard pit that contains cyanide (also known as prussic acid). But don’t worry if you swallow a whole pit. The pit will pass through your digestive system harmlessly. On the other hand, don’t swallow broken up bits of the cherry pit; the cyanide can lead to unconsciousness and death.

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Cinnamon
> Principal danger: Choking hazard, scarring of lungs

One of the four types of cinnamon, the dark-colored cassia cinnamon is the one you’re most likely to buy in the U.S. Consuming large quantities of cassia cinnamon may be toxic if you have liver problems because some cinnamon products contain coumarin, a common ingredient in rat poison. The faddish “cinnamon challenge” that first became popular in the early years of this century – it involves eating a spoonful of ground cinnamon in less than a minute without washing it down – poses another problem: The powdered spice can cause choking or vomiting and damage the esophagus or lungs.

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Death-cap mushrooms (Amanita phalloides)
> Principal danger: Amatoxins, phallotoxins, virotoxins

How can such an innocent looking fungus be so lethal? There are numerous toxic mushroom varieties, but the efficiency of the death-cap mushroom is so well-known that it’s been implicated in the deaths of such famous figures as the Roman emperor Claudius, Pope Clement VII, the Russian tsaritsa Natalia Naryshkina, and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.

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Elderberry leaves and seeds
> Principal danger: Cyanogenic glucosides

Touted for its medicinal purposes, the elderberry is packed with antioxidants and nutrients. However, the bark, leaves, seeds, and unripened berries of the plant contain cyanogenic glycosides, which can cause nausea, diarrhea, and overall weakness, among other problems.

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Fugu (blowfish)
> Principal danger: Tetrodotoxin

Fugu, or blowfish, contains the poison tetrodotoxin in its inner organs. The poison paralyzes the victim until he or she can no longer breathe, and death may follow. The flesh of the fish is considered a great delicacy, however, and it is often served in high-end sushi bars. In Japan and a few other countries, only chefs with three or more years of training are legally permitted to prepare the fish.

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