Lychee lovers should not feel perturbed by reports out of India that the tropical fruit is the source of a mystery illness amongst children, according to Australian Lychee Growers Association president Derek Foley.
A team of US and Indian scientists believe the illness – which causes sudden seizures and lost consciousness – is caused by the excessive consumption of lychees on an empty stomach.
Foley said that the research published in the medical journal The Lancet clearly showed the illness affected malnourished children eating large quantities of unripe fruit.
“The report identifies an amino acid present in high concentrations in the unripe fruit which affects the way glucose is metabolised and has a particularly strong impact on malnourished children who did not eat an evening meal,” he said.
“Whilst we are very distressed to hear about the impact on these children, the pre-conditions for the illness are not likely to occur in Australia.
Foley said Australia had a reputation for growing and trading fresh, ripe lychees.
“The bottom line is that Australian consumers are unlikely to be in contact with green immature unripe fruit and are unlikely to be eating them in large quantities at the exclusion of other foods,” he added.
“We pride ourselves on picking fruit that is ripe red delicious and ready for consumption whereas these children are raiding orchards and gorging on green immature unripe fruit and then going without dinner.”