Ground flaxseed and cyanide


Any news on this? I’m concerned and will not consume Huel as often as I planned.

I’m getting a bit tired of the comments that “if I’m still alive it’s great for my body”.


What news are you after?


If anyone knows if there is more studies done on the cyanide. Also, if you guys at Huel are looking at alternative ingredients?


We’re certainly not looking at alternative ingredients as we don’t see this as an issue. I do not agree with the information


Nothing to see here. Move along people.


Too bad mithridatism does not work in case of cyanide :wink:


Is Sweden the only country that picked up on this and issued an recommendation? Are we overreacting in Sweden or is no one else taking this seriously?

This is a major concern and is currently the only thing standing in my way for trying Huel (or some competitior, most of them using flaxseed).


I would hardly call “don’t eat crushed flaxseed” a sensible recommendation. Have another read of Gulliver’s post: Ground flaxseed and cyanide

This is scientific theory at it’s finest. Something might be technically possible in virtually impossible circumstances and because we don’t have actual facts and figures we are going to issue a blanket statement which helps nobody practically but covers our arse.

In the absence of a double blind diverse peer reviewed study we can look only at what is happening in the real world. And in the real world thousands of people everyday are consuming Huel and similar products which contain ground flaxeed, some of these people are even consuming nothing but Huel and they are doing fine. If this was a genuine issue it would have come to light long before now.


As far as I know, Sweden is the only country and interestingly, Sweden is currently Huel’s 4th biggest market.

The ‘science’ is flawed and I see no concern. Obviously, one would be forgiven for thinking I’m biased, but I would hope that people would acknowledge my transparency in other nutritional concerns, that if I felt it was valid, I would address the issue.


Anyone who feels this is untrue should spend a little time trawling this forum before posting. It proves James’s claim of openness & transparency.


As calculated by another forum user above:

2000 calories of huel would mean ingesting 60.7g flaxseed in a day (…) there could be a dose as high as 13.36mg cyanide in 60.7g flaxseed, but probably more like 9mg (…)

This should be put in contrast to two things: the lethal dose, and the Acute Reference Dose (“ARfD”). While the lethal dose is rather self-explanatory, the ARfD is:

“An estimate (with uncertainty spanning perhaps an order of magnitude) of a daily oral exposure for an acute duration (24 hours or less) to the human population (including sensitive subgroups) that is likely to be without an appreciable risk of deleterious effects during a lifetime”.

This seems like the most sensible number to use for you, as a producer of a food product.

Let’s start by considering the lethal dose. The lethal dose is about 0.5 to 3.5 milligrams per kg of body weight (source: EFSA). So here are two examples with some very basic math:

  1. Low-tolerance, low-weight individual: 0.5 * 50 kg = 25 mg lethal dose.
  2. High-tolerance, high-weight individual: 3.5 * 100 kg = 350 mg lethal dose.

With an assumption of a daily intake of ONLY Huel giving you 9mg of cyanide (up to 13), that is almost half of a lethal dose spread out over one day for a low-tolerance individual. However, lethal doses aren’t what food manufacturers should use for guidance. Back to the ARfD:

“An acute reference dose (ARfD) of 20µg/kg bw [body weight] was derived from an exposure of 0.105 mg/kg bw associated with a non-toxic blood cyanide level (…) this is 25 times below the lowest reported lethal dose.”

Let’s use the same example individuals as above:

  1. Low-weight individual: 20µg * 50 kg = 1 mg (1 000 µg)
  2. High-weight individual: 20µg * 100 kg = 2 mg (2 000 µg)

Please correct me if I’m wrong, but you are selling a product that if used as a total meal replacement (as you market it) means ingesting 9-12mg of cyanide per day when the European Food Safety Authority has established the Acute Reference Dose to not exceed approximately 1-2 mg per person, per day. Is this statement true, or false?


Hmm, that looks to me like it was written by a politician, not a scientist. I’ve never heard of ARfD… Ah, it’s a concept specific to the EPA, a US organisation concerned solely with US health, specifically in relation to the toxins US corps put into the environment.

It doesn’t appear to be principally concerned with the intrinsic safety of foodstuffs & it certainly isn’t a global standard or even an industry standard.

No, it doesn’t. It really doesn’t.


Hmm, that looks to me like it was written by a politician, not a scientist. I’ve never heard of ARfD… Ah, it’s a concept specific to the EPA, a US organisation concerned solely with US health, specifically in relation to the toxins US corps put into the environment.

No, ARfD is a term used by the European Food Safety Authority. EFSA “produces scientific opinions and advice that form the basis for European policies and legislation”. Your statement is blatantly untrue.

Furthermore, even if your statement was true (which it is not), why is it relevant if the term was exclusively used by the EPA?

No, it doesn’t. It really doesn’t.

Then put forward an argument why not. Petulant answers like these signifying no thought or rationale are nothing short of offensive when I’ve put time into collecting information from credible sources.

One source that might interest you is “Apricot kernels pose risk of cyanide poisoning” where you can find the claims for lethal doses and ARfD for cyanide. I feel I should also point out, since I highly doubt you’ll read any of it before pouncing again, that the point here is not the apricot kernel, but the content of cyanide, which they share with flax seed.


The absence of cyanide poisoning despite its presence in many foods including ground flaxseed & consequently Huel.

My argument would be one concerning relative risk assessment. People are terrible at this.

I may well be wrong about how widespread ARfD is, however I stand by my claim it is of more use to politicians trying to cover their backs than to those concerned with actual safety of food. This is based on the definition itself

Perhaps? So the error factor on this estimate might be ten or maybe it’s more or less. Perhaps. Perhaps two orders of magnitude? That’s a factor of 100 for anyone unsure.

Perhaps you can clarify this part. Since it talks of daily exposure of duration less than 24hrs the latter must be referring to the exposure each day being acute with daily implying long term consumption according to this pattern. Only why describe the daily exposure as acute if all acute means is 24hrs or less; obviously exposure in one day must last no more than one day? OTOH if acute refers to the overall exposure & this is less than 24hrs it doesn’t make sense to describe it as daily.

So we’re trying to include everyone within our protected group…

and want them to be free of significant risk (without any attempt to clarify what significant means) of any bad effects (without any attempt to clarify what bad means)…

plus we’d like this protection to last forever from the point of view of the protected.

This is unworkable. You would need to study the effects of consuming any given substance for several human lifetimes to attempt to evaluate this.

However that is irrelevant as the purpose of this definition isn’t safety, it’s at best about perceived safety & creating a political climate where safety issues are kept in sight. At worst it’s sleight of hand to permit industry to erode safety.

And you’re quite right; most of this is merely my opinion based on a single lifetime of observations.


Mate, I couldn’t care less whether you recognize the European Food Safety Authority or if you understand or accept the ARfD as being accurate enough for your taste. I also will also not partake in your hair-splitting of the phrasing used in text from the EFSA, or your de-railing into whether the ARfD is overly cautious.

And you’re quite right; most of this is merely my opinion based on a single lifetime of observations.

This basically means everything you just said can be discarded as completely irrelevant, which was obvious from the second you started arguing against the organization responsible for scientific opinions on food safety in the European Union.

My question remains very simple:

Is Huel selling a product, that if used as a total meal replacement, means ingesting 9-12 mg of cyanide per day, while the European Food Safety Authority has established the Acute Reference Dose to not exceed approximately 1-2 mg per person, per day. Yes or no?

If the answer is yes, it’s my opinion that it would be suitable for Huel to officially respond to this, and whether there will be changes made, or if no changes will be made, what the rationale is for not making changes.

I’ve heard your argument loud and clear, which is basically nothing beyond “the EFSA is full of shit”, and I sincerely hope that the response from Huel as a company goes beyond that.



That is not a quote of anything I said. Either you don’t know how to use quotation marks or you’re being intentionally misleading.

Interesting, since you were the one who began by quoting it. Now you express an active lack of interest in discussing it. I’m out.


Just something I came across…

The capacity of individuals to detoxify cyanide is related to the presence of sulfur containing amino acids in the diet. Most research into the toxicity of cyanogenic compounds to humans is related to the consumption of cassava as a staple in the diet. The toxicity of cassava is exacerbated due to the typical high levels of consumption and the low availability of dietary protein to those that rely on this staple (World Health Organization, 2004). The toxicity of flaxseed cyanogenic glycosides is likely to be rare except in cases where flaxseed fractions are consumed in relatively large amounts in low protein diets.


@JamesCollier has responded to concerns about cyanide toxicity regularly and in other threads too.

We don’t market Huel as a total 100% replacement for all your traditional meals. Huel is healthy convenience food. We do acknowledge that some do use Huel like this though and we believe it is perfectly safe to do so aside from minor gut upsets in some cases however still believe that the best use case is 1 or 2 of your most time-pressured meals a day.


Correct me if I’m wrong, but as I understand it cyanide is metabolized rather quickly, so it’s not very meaningful looking at daily intake. If there’s no acute poisoning there’s no poisoning, period.


Hi guys

This issue seems to be coming up more and more now we have our dedicated Swedish wesbite and are actively marketing there. @NatalieOfficialHuel and I have been working on an article covering all the flaxseed-related queries we get. We will certainly cover the points raised a few days ago in more detail.