A new outbreak investigation published in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) revealed that thousands of people in Africa – particularly Uganda, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo – may be at-risk of cyanide poisoning from eating inadequately processed wild cassava. The full extent of the problem is unknown because acute cassava-associated cyanide poisoning outbreaks are rarely investigated. These findings are available in this week’s MMWR Report, Outbreak of Cyanide Poisoning Caused by Consumption of Cassava Flour — Kasese District, Uganda, September 2017.
Cassava, the primary food source of over 600 million tropical residents, contains naturally occurring plant toxins called cyanogenic glycosides. If wild cassava is not adequately processed to reduce toxins before being eaten, cyanide poisoning can occur. Following established methods of processing cassava, making it safe to eat, is key to curbing cassava food poisoning outbreaks.