Here’s an interesting snippet for you. It interested me anyway. Public Health England, one of those many healthcare quangoes filled with interfering busybodies, has just issued some guidance to supermarkets. In it there is the recommendation that shops selling daffodil bulbs should display them at a distance from the fresh produce. The reason for this is that in the past six years, 67 people in the UK have been poisoned by daffodil bulbs when they’ve eaten them in mistake for onions.
I think this is nannying of a pretty high order, and is anyway unnecessary, because this is natural selection at its very best. Daffodil bulbs look only vaguely like an onion. Slice one open, as I did at school to learn the structure of bulbs (as opposed to corms, tubers, or rhizomes) the resemblance is greater. But you’d have to be a complete numbskull not to notice that they don’t smell like onions. They smell like daffodil bulbs, as any gardener will tell you. I can’t speak from experience here, but I’d wager a fair amount of wedge that they don’t taste like onions either. You’d need to be quite remarkably dense not to notice. Additionally I am absolutely certain that the supermarkets have signs and shelf edgers that say ‘onions.’ They also have signs saying ‘daffodil bulbs.’ I know literacy is a bit of a problem here, but I don’t think many people are that ill educated.
To be honest, it’s not even that big an issue anyway. Daffodil poisoning is unpleasant but rarely fatal. The active compound is an alkaloid, lyconine, which you can find in a lot of other plants including the amaryllis, which also has only a passing resemblance to an onion. What can you expect should you be such a knothead as to eat a daff? Abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, vomiting, loss of appetite, all the usual suspects. There have been occasional reports of convulsions and death, but you could regard these as nature’s way of telling idiots they got it badly wrong and now it’s time to pay the price. As happened during the war when people who fed cattle on daffodil bulbs noticed the ill fated animals turned up their toes, a classic case of experimental failure.
Public Health England is making a fuss about nothing, and should have more important things to do, such as disbanding itself so it stops interfering. Ten cases a year is hardly anything at all is it? Not in the cosmic scheme of things. Really, is anybody that bothered?
Incidentally, somebody once pointed out to me that ‘Bulb, Corm, Tuber, and Rhizome’ sound like a Victorian firm of lawyers.