Thesis subject

MSc thesis: Why do some people eat poisonous foods? Exploring the popularity of toxic apricot pits as a health food in the Netherlands

Background information

Until 2018, apricot pits were available as a ‘superfood’ in Dutch health food shops. However, following the near-death of a consumer, these were banned from sale. Apricot pits contain a high concentration of amygdaline, which changes into cyanide in the human stomach. But why were apricot pits being sold as a ‘superfood’ in the first place? This thesis investigates how poisonous foods come to be eaten by consumers, exploring factors on both the supply-side (e.g. sites of production and sale) and demand-side (e.g. promotion, integration into consumption practices). A literature review will explore relevant areas such as health foods, ‘drug foods’ and functional foods. Earlier examples of apricot pits being sold as a health food (e.g. in the 1970s US) will also be examined. The empirical core of the thesis will consist of interviews with key actors relating to the production, sale, consumption and regulation of apricot pits as food, seeking to understand how they came to be positioned not just as ‘edible’ but also as ‘healthy’. It will draw out implications for our understanding of what ‘edibility’ is, explaining how some things that are technically lethal still end up on people’s plates.

This thesis employs qualitative research methods: this will involve primary data collection (e.g. interviews, observations) and desk-based research (e.g. review and analysis of academic literature, historical/archival sources, popular sources/grey literature).


If you are interested in this topic, please contact Jonas House (