In London in 1979, 78 schoolboys and a handful of monitors simultaneously fell ill. The symptoms included vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever and even convulsive twitching. In severe cases, the kids experienced central nervous system depression and peripheral circulatory collapse. However, in five days all patients recovered, even though some hallucinated for several days. 

Sickness photo by Daan Stevens (@daanstevens) on Unsplash

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You might think that this outbreak was a result of some terrible infectious disease or a wistful poisoning plan. However, it turned out that the symptoms were caused by the consumption of potatoes that had undergone greening and turned into green potatoes containing solanine

Solanine is a toxicant which can cause drowsiness, difficulty breathing, headache, fever, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, and, in large doses, death. Solanine also interferes with the body's ability to use a particular chemical that facilitates nerve transmissions and impulses between cells. Doses of 2 to 5 mg/kg of body weight of solanine can cause toxic symptoms, and doses of 3 to 6 mg/kg of body weight can be fatal.

So How is Solanine Formed in Potatoes?

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Kamila Gabitova

Solanine develops in potatoes during inappropriate storage, when potatoes are exposed to light and/or very cold or warm temperatures. Green potatoes indicate the presence of solanine. An average green potato contains 8 mg of solanine/ 100 g of potatoes, and a large amount of solanine is concentrated in the peel.

Some people might attempt to put green potatoes, containing solanine, in a dark place. The green colour of these potatoes would disappear, but the solanine would not go away. Solanine is also heat stable and does not dissolve in water. Therefore, it is important to discard green potatoes. 

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Kamila Gabitova

It is impossible not to love fried or baked potatoes. However, it is crucial to store them properly. Potatoes must be stored in a cool, well-ventilated place. Do not refrigerate potatoes, as the starch contained within them will turn into sugar, resulting in a sweet taste and discolouration when cooked. It is important not to expose potatoes to light and extreme temperatures, as solanine can be produced.

Food, french fry, bowl, snack and salt HD photo by Stephanie McCabe (@stephaniemccabe) on Unsplash

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Let's be honest - even this scary fact about potatoes cannot stop you from loving potatoes with all your heart. Therefore, you can simply take good care of your potatoes by storing them properly and preventing solanine formation. Continue on loving your potatoes, but remember to always discard the ones which have undergone greening.