Be wise when purchasing ackees
When ripe, the fruit splits open to reveal three glossy black seeds or one large one surrounded by a thick, oily, yellow aril or flesh. The poison in ackee seeds and under-ripe arils causes vomiting followed by convulsions. The side effects can result in a coma and death. The PAHO states that the amino acids hypoglycin A and B cause the fruit to be toxic. The hypoglycin content diminishes after sunlight reaches the mature arils.
Both hypoglycin A and hypoglycin B are found in the seeds and the pinkish membrane at the base of the seed. The membrane, along with the seeds, is removed before preparing for cooking. The toxin is found in unripe fruits that are harvested too early, and can have serious consequences for consumers as these are always poisonous. The fruit should be allowed to ripen and open naturally.
Many Jamaican children, in their innocence, have a tendency to eat unripened ackees because they are temptingly pretty to look at. Also, force-ripened ackees can sometimes be found in the markets, hence “Jamaican vomiting sickness'” is still relevant today. Consumers, therefore, need to be vigilant when they buy ackees that are in the pod. Look out for signs of forced opening.
The Hypoglycin content diminishes after sunlight reaches the mature inner flesh of the ackee. If the ackee is harvested at the right time the toxin level dissipates, making it safe for consumption. Potential risky behaviours for ackee poisoning include consumption of unripe ackee fruit, consumption of ackee that has been forcibly opened, and reuse of the water in which the unripe ackees have been cooked.