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West Norfolk councillor issues warning due to courgette seeds causing sickness




Eating home-grown courgettes as part of a Sunday roast dinner turned into an unpleasant experience for a West Norfolk councillor and his wife, who became ill as a result of the seeds.

Jim Moriarty said the courgettes had a bitter-taste which left his wife Liz vomiting and with stomach cramps for a few days this week.

The seeds were purchased from Mr Fothergill's, based in Newmarket, who have issued an urgent product recall notice due to unusually high levels of cucurbitacins, a naturally occurring toxin.

Leader of the West Norfolk independent group, councillor Jim Moriarty
Leader of the West Norfolk independent group, councillor Jim Moriarty

Mr Moriarty said: "My wife had the first mouthful and her face screwed up, saying 'this is disgusting'. I did not swallow my courgettes and we wondered if it was a cat, and just thought it was strange.

"But then I Googled 'bitter courgette' and found entries from last June about eating an unpleasant courgette which caused severe stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhoea, which transpired with Liz. She was ill most mornings but she is better now."

The councillor was then informed by the Castle Acre Horticultural Society of two further cases of people becoming ill in the village after eating courgettes.

Jim Moriarty, pictured in 2016, with his wife Liz during the annual ceremony of Mayormaking for West Norfolk Council. He was deputy mayor at the time
Jim Moriarty, pictured in 2016, with his wife Liz during the annual ceremony of Mayormaking for West Norfolk Council. He was deputy mayor at the time

Mr Moriarty continued: "Liz had the tiniest of mouthfuls and now I was hearing there were three cases in Castle Acre which were completely unconnected so we wanted to get the word out."

A statement on Mr Fothergill's social media page states: "It has come to our attention that a batch of our Courgette Zucchini seeds, labelled batch code 'I', could contain a small number of seeds that could produce bitter-tasting fruits.

"This could be due to unusually high levels of cucurbitacins, a naturally occurring toxin that is present in all courgettes, cucumbers and peppers."

A further statement on the company's website says: "Normally cucurbitacins exist in very small amounts but genetic issues in the production cycle very occasionally deliver larger amounts into the seed which cause the bitter flavour. It’s impossible to test for in the seed itself and we have never had a batch of seed like this in our 40 plus year history.

"We recommend that if you have grown this variety from a packet with the batch code 'I' that you do not ingest the fruits without taste testing for bitterness. A taste-test is a safe thing to do to detect if you have an affected plant which will be extremely bitter. Ingesting the fruits in any quantity could cause stomach cramps, diarrhea or sickness, so please discard the plant.

"Please be assured that we take every precaution to maintain the quality of our seed stock. In this instance we are withdrawing the rogue batch from all sales outlets and in-house stocks."

For more information and guidance on what to do if you have sown a packet from this batch, visit www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Product-Recall-MRF.


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