Following a number of complaints from customers, Mr Fothergill’s has had to recall a batch of poisonous Courgette Zucchini seeds.
Some customers who planted and grew the courgettes have experienced stomach pain and nausea after eating bitter-tasting courgettes grown from the seeds.
Mr Fothergill’s believes that the naturally occurring cucurbitacins, which normally exist in very small amounts in courgettes, have been increased by cross-pollination in the seed production cycle. High temperatures, dryness can also cause this increase, which results in courgettes having a bitter flavour and occasionally stomach problems once eaten.
It is possible that a seed from a seed packet to have been cross pollinated with with cucurbits, resulting in higher levels of cucurbitacins.
The problem is extremely rare and is untraceable before growing out again for harvest. All remaining stocks from the warehouse, unpacked seeds and seeds in retail outlets are being recovered and destroyed.
Mr Fothergill’s has traced the problem to a specific lot of seed which comes from a grower with meticulous growing and husbandry routines.
Not all courgettes in a patch may be affected. The courgettes can be tasted raw, and if bitter, spat out and discarded.
Mr Fothergill’s commercial director Tim Jeffries said: “We have reacted promptly to a handful of complaints we have received from our customers to withdraw seed and make efforts to advise customers to avoid any discomfort. The problem is impossible to test for in the seed itself and we have never had a batch of seed like this in our history. We wish to act responsibly and make every effort to advise people.
“Anyone who inspects their packets and finds the code letter I printed near the dating information (see above) should contact the company through the website mr-fothergills.co.uk and a replacement packet will be sent for future use”
On a recent blog post on the Brighton and Hove Allotment Federation, several people have confirmed that they have discovered bitter courgettes and have had stomach problems.
On 5 July Anne posted: “We have just had exactly the same problem from some Mr Fothergill’s courgette seeds. The courgettes were extremely bitter and inedible and just a mouthful or two led to a night of diarrhoea for all three us. We had also never heard of this before despite my parents being keen gardeners!”