Sprouting Potatoes: Can You Still Eat the Potatoes?

Care should be taken with green and sprouting potatoes: the natural toxin that forms when stored for a long time or incorrectly can lead to dangerous poisoning. Here you can find out which potatoes you can eat without worrying – and which ones you shouldn’t.

Especially if you don’t have a basement to store potatoes, you quickly have the problem that the freshly bought potatoes will germinate. What now? Are sprouting potatoes really poisonous and inedible – or can I still eat them?

Potatoes can contain large amounts of toxic glycoalkaloids such as solanine and chaconine. Both toxins are actually natural ingredients in the potato, they mainly accumulate in green, germinating and damaged tubers and in potato skins.

Can I still eat sprouting and green potatoes?

How to recognize poisonous potatoes:

You should no longer eat potatoes with many and large sprouts, but throw them away. If the potato has only a few and small sprouts, there is no health risk. You can cut them out generously and prepare the potatoes as usual. As a rule of thumb, if the sprouts are longer than 1 centimeter, you should discard the potato.

A green discoloration of the potato is also an indication of a high solanine content. As a precaution, you should no longer eat green potatoes. You can generously cut out small green areas.
At higher glycoalkaloid concentrations, potato dishes can taste bitter. A hint to better leave the dish alone!

Solanine: signs of poisoning from potatoes

When people consume too much solanine and chaconine, it can lead to the following symptoms:

  • stomach pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomit
  • drowsiness
  • shortness of breath
  • cramps

Avoiding potato poisoning from solanine

To reduce the risk to a minimum, potatoes should always be stored in a cool, dark, and dry place.
Do not reuse the cooking water from potatoes.
Change the deep-frying fat in potato products regularly.
Children in particular should not eat unpeeled potatoes.
Since new potatoes are particularly vulnerable, they should not be stored for long.

Solanine in potatoes – BfR recommendations

The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) also warns of potatoes that germinate profusely: After a family was poisoned by eating jacket and baked potatoes in November 2015, the institute collected and evaluated further data on the glycoalkaloid content in potatoes. After evaluating the data, the Federal Institute recommended reducing the maximum recommended glycoalkaloid content to a maximum of 100 milligrams of solanine per kilogram of table potatoes. Previously, potatoes with a glycoalkaloid content of up to 200 mg/kg were classified as safe.

Danger of potato poisoning is low

A study by the Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) from 2005 showed that 92 percent of the potato samples contained less than 100 mg/kg solanine and chaconine. Early varieties and seasonal goods from the fall were more heavily contaminated than storage potatoes from the first half of the year.

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