Can eating raw bamboo shoots cause poisoning?

February 16, 2024 | 10:22 pm PT
Many people say raw bamboo shoots contain toxins harmful to health, so the food must be boiled and drained several times, or be pickled before eating. Is that true? (Thu, 29, Hanoi)


Bamboo shoots are a common dish in every family. They are rich in fiber, protein, carbohydrates, amino acids and minerals. However, raw bamboo shoots are poisonous because they contain compounds that can produce cyanide. When consumed, cyanide transforms into hydrocyanic acid (HCN) under the action of digestive enzymes, which can easily cause poisoning.

Cases of poisoning therefore often occur due to consuming raw bamboo shoots without boiling or drinking the water used to boil them. Children and malnourished people usually have more severe poisoning.

Bamboo shoots poisoning usually occurs approximately 30 minutes after consumption and causes nausea, vomiting, headaches, and dizziness. They may also cause convulsions, respiratory failure, and even death in severe cases.

Thinly sliced bamboo shoots prepared and placed on a woven basket. Photo by VnExpress/Bui Thuy

Thinly sliced bamboo shoots prepared and placed on a woven basket. Photo by VnExpress/Bui Thuy

To be safe, it is necessary to select and process bamboo shoots correctly. It is advisable to prepare them yourself and avoid soaking them in bleaching agents. You should wash and soak the bamboo shoots with salt water or rice water before boiling them several times. The water used for boiling must be discarded afterwards. When boiling, leave the pot uncovered to allow the toxins to evaporate.

You should also purchase bamboo shoots from reputable sources with a guaranteed origin to consume without worrying.

You must not consume raw bamboo shoots. Only eat bamboo shoots that have been thoroughly soaked and boiled to ensure your safety. If you experience symptoms of poisoning, seek medical attention immediately to avoid severe complications.

Dr. Nguyen Duy Thinh

Former lecturer at the Hanoi University of Science and Technology’s Institute of Biotechnology and Food Technology

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