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Testing for amygdalin in food products


I recently decided to steep some whole cherry pits in alcohol to make a sort of liqueur, but before I try drinking it I'm concerned about the potential content of cyanide and amygdalin. From my own research, it seems like testing for the presence of cyanide directly is fairly straightforward, but I'm also concerned there may be a lot of amygdalin floating around that would evade detection but still pose a health risk if I were to drink the stuff. I'm aware that amygdalin can be converted to cyanide by certain enzymes, so one idea I had to try to test for it was to obtain some of the appropriate enzymes and then take a small sample of the liquor and test the cyanide level after combining with the enzyme, but from what I can tell it seems like most of the enzymes I could use are pretty expensive and not very easy to obtain. I was wondering if you have any advice for other ways I could test it, or perhaps if you could suggest some company or lab that might test a sample of it for me. Thanks!

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Re: Testing for amygdalin in food products


Not an ACS chemist. There don't seem to be many that visit (much less frequent) and answer questions here.

If you make an alcohol extract then add an enzyme you're likely to degrade it anyway, so it probably wouldn't achieve the effect you'd want. If you seriously wanted to go that route, I would suggest buying the appropriate known compounds from a chemical supplier and testing the enzyme to see if it produced the results you wanted. Plus, since you could test various known concentrations you'd be able to quantify the concentration of the glucoside in your alcohol extract (assuming you were meticulous with your calculations and measurements with the known quantities). This would require good wet lab skills and access to precision instruments, because presumably you're dissolving small quantities of solids in small volumes of solvent. If you don't have access to a lab scale that can measure mass to 0.001g then you'll need to massively scale up your concentrations to reduce the uncertainty in your concentrations.

When you say test it, a simple run on a GC/MS would probably be fast and efficient, but you'd need to convert it to another solvent first like carbon tet (and anhydrous). I don't know the solubility of amygdalin in nonpolar solvents like CCl4 so you might have to use something else, assuming you have access to GC/MS.

Regardless of what you do to determine the concentration of amydalin and CN, I strongly recommend that you do not drink any of that extract. It is highly likely to be toxic and devoid of nutritional value. Assuming you used pure ethanol and not any other type of alcohol, look up the MSDS for ethanol before you imbibe...

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