Can mashed potatoes cause food poisoning?

In this article, we will answer the following question: Can mashed potatoes cause food poisoning? We will speak about the real risk of a foodborne illness due to the consumption of potatoes and how to prevent and cook potatoes to avoid any risks.

Can mashed potatoes cause food poisoning?

Mashed potatoes can cause food poisoning if it was not handled and cooked correctly. The reason is the solanine contained in a potato’s tuber, a glycoalkaloid whose consumption in excess can cause poisoning. Although nowadays they are rare, it is worth remembering the basic recommendations to consume potatoes with total peace of mind and without risks.

Today we care so much about avoiding ultra-processed and other unhealthy products that we forget that the most natural can also have its risks. We forget that many additives guarantee food safety, and also that not being “natural” all foods are always safe.

Can you get food poisoning from potatoes? 

Yes, even those fruits and vegetables with peel can be a cause of serious food poisoning. The most common with potatoes is solanine poisoning. Symptoms may include:

  • Vomiting 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Headaches 
  • Paralysis of CNS

What is solanine and what risks does it represent?

Solanine is one of the glycoalkaloids that can be found in potatoes. Glycoalkaloids are secondary chemical compounds present in certain plants and Solanaceae as a defense mechanism. Specifically, this tuber mainly presents α-solanine and α-chaconine, and they seem to be more concentrated in the skin and buds.

The presence of green parts in the potato indicates a very high content of glycoalkaloids, and its consumption should be avoided. Ingesting a certain amount of these compounds can cause food poisoning with more or less serious effects. To begin with, solanine is perceived by taste, leaving a bitter taste and even a certain burning in the mouth.

Symptoms of milder poisonings can manifest as nausea, stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and even some fever. In more severe cases, dizziness and partial or total loss of consciousness, vertigo, respiratory problems, and various neurological disorders such as hallucinations, paralysis, or loss of sensation may occur. In very serious cases it can be fatal.

What are the real risks of poisoning?

Considering the number of potatoes consumed daily around the world, in the last 100 years, solanine poisonings have been rare, at least seriously. It is believed that there could be many more, but given the variety of mild symptoms, it is likely that many times they are not identified with the potato.

Even so, there have been very serious cases of poisoning that have caused coma or even death. 

Other FAQs about Potatoes which you may be interested in.

Do oxidized potatoes taste different?

Are potatoes fruit?

Are potatoes a root?

How to preserve and cook potatoes to avoid risks

We cannot analyze the glycoalkaloid content of the potatoes we buy, but we can use common sense to avoid unnecessary risks at home. As always, better to be safe than sorry or regret anything afterward.

The first tip is not new, it is always advisable to buy only quality food from reliable sources, preferably local seasonal potatoes, and store them well. 

  • Choose potatoes with a healthy appearance, without visible damage or appearance of old (does not mean that they have to be “pretty”).
  • Store them unwashed in a dark, dry, and cool place.
  • Very old, dry, wrinkled, green, or sprouted potatoes should be discarded.
  • It is not advisable to consume the peeled skin of the potato as an aperitif or snack.
  • The green parts and the “eyes” must be cut off completely; If the green is very widespread in the tuber, it is better not to risk it and discard the potato.
  • If we want to eat the skin, it is preferable to choose only the freshest and most undamaged potatoes, especially if we do it very frequently.
  • Giving unpeeled potatoes to younger children is not recommended.
  • Immediately discard any potato dish if it tastes strangely bitter or causes a strange reaction on the tongue or palate.
  • Do not reuse the water to cook or soak the potatoes.
  • Correct frying at high temperatures eliminates a large part of the potentially toxic substances.
  • However, avoid reusing the oil for frying potatoes many times.
  • It is imperative to ensure that the potatoes are fully cooked.
  • Frying potatoes
  • Surely many people already cut or discard the green part of potatoes, although they do not know exactly why. Luckily instinct tells us that it should not be very appropriate to eat, but I think it is important to know exactly what the risks may be.

The potato is an essential ingredient in countless dishes, present in every home throughout the year. Tasty, versatile, nutritious, and healthy, if we handle and cook it correctly we can continue to eat it without worries.

Final thought

In this article, we answered the following question: Can mashed potatoes cause food poisoning? We spoke about the real risk of a foodborne illness due to the consumption of potatoes and how to prevent and cook potatoes to avoid any risks.

We must be careful when consuming potatoes, especially if they have oxidized.  We already know that it is an essential ingredient in our kitchen and an essential source of carbohydrates, but we have to know the effects that its misuse can have on our health.

Of course, the potatoes that are marketed have totally controlled solanine levels, but it is advisable to remove the skin perfectly and consume the potatoes as soon as possible since the concentrations of this alkaloid increase the older the specimen is.

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