Is canary seed safe for human consumption?


Quick Answer

Traditional canary seed is not considered safe for human consumption in the United States. However, new hairless varieties of the seed are listed as safe and being sold in the U.S.

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Full Answer

Canary seed is commonly used in birdseed. This grain is even grown and processed into flour in other countries. However, in the U.S. its sale is limited to the hairless varieties only.

Traditional canary seeds are covered in microscopic silica hairs that are similar to asbestos fibers. Research has shown a strong link between consumption of these seeds and esophageal cancer. It seems that the fine hairs irritate the skin of the mouth and throat and encourage the growth of tumors.

Recently, researchers breed a few varieties of silica-free canary seed that is safe to eat. These varieties are bald, lacking the silica fibers that make them dangerous for the throat.

Silica-free canary seed contains a high amount of protein, about 9 grams per 5 tablespoons of the dry grain. Canary seed contains plenty amino acids, arginine, tryptophan and phenylalanine and is also rich in healthy Omega-6 and Omega-9 Fatty Acids. It is also a good source of iron, containing about 3 milligrams per 5 tablespoons of dry grain.

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