UK health official issues alert on daffodil poisoning, as some eat flower mistaking it for Chinese chives

Daffodils (top) have been mistaken for garlic scape (bottom), a Chinese vegetable, but daffodils contain toxins. The National Poisons Information Service of the UK answered 27 calls about daffodil poisoning last year. -- PHOTO: CHINA DAILY
Daffodils (top) have been mistaken for garlic scape (bottom), a Chinese vegetable, but daffodils contain toxins. The National Poisons Information Service of the UK answered 27 calls about daffodil poisoning last year. -- PHOTO: CHINA DAILY

LONDON (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Please don't eat the daffodils!

Some British supermarkets have had to move the spring flower bulbs away from the fruit and vegetable section as the weather warms, as they have been mistaken by non-locals for a Chinese vegetable called garlic chives.

Daffodils, however, contain toxins that can cause severe nausea.

There have been 63 cases of daffodil poisoning in the past six years, and the National Poisons Information Service answered 27 daffodil-related calls last year.

This year, in an unprecedented move, Public Health England has issued a letter to all major supermarkets asking them to ensure that daffodils, the national flower of Wales, be kept separate from fruits and vegetables.

Professor Paul Cosford, director for health protection, said: "Daffodils are dangerous if eaten and poisoning can occur as a result. We are asking stores to ensure daffodils, both the bulbs from which they sprout and the cut variety too, are displayed well away from the produce or fruit and vegetable area.

"Such a move will, we hope, produce a separation in shoppers' minds that will help to stop them thinking daffodils are edible," he added.

In response, some stores have even put up a "Please do not eat" note in Chinese next to the daffodils on display.

In 2012, the Chinese community in Bristol in South West England was urged not to eat daffodils after 10 people ended up in hospital for severe vomiting. The authorities said they ate the flower mistaking it for Chinese chives.

Chinese national Wang Ying, who has worked in London for five years, recalled how a friend who visited the UK for the first time last year made the same mistake.

"She didn't notice the difference, didn't even see the flower's name and cooked it with meat. She was happy at first (to) eat this Chinese vegetable in Britain, but she became sick and had to go to the hospital," Wang said.

Some quarters, however, think the health alert is "ridiculous".

"This country is supposed to be in austerity so I think we could start to save a bit of money on this sort of rubbish," Daily Express columnist Ann Widdecombe was cited as saying by Daily Express newspaper.

"Do they honestly think the public doesn't have any common sense? Do they think Britons have never seen daffodils before?"

Mr Nathan Gill, Member of the European Parliament for Wales for the UK Independence Party, said: "We would hope all Welsh consumers are rightly annoyed our national flower is buried away from sight like a pack of cigarettes due to ridiculous health and safety rules."