Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Pine Nuts From Costco Made My Taste Go Gross! Costco minimizes issue!

A very unusual thing happened to me a couple of weeks ago. I was at my local Costco, Albany, Oregon, shopping for a few things. I passed one of Costco's notorious sample tables on which were arranged little cups of Kirkland Pine Nuts on a red tray.

"Oh," I thought to myself, "I love pine nuts! I haven't had any in quite a while, they are such a luxury! Maybe I'll get some!"

I helped myself to a cup containing about 8 or 10 little nuts. They were a little different than the usual version, stubbier and rounder, not long and thin like puffed rice or ant eggs.

"Mmmm..." I thought. "What a treat!"

I didn't buy the nuts. I've been reading Dave Ramsey's books on financial peace, and he often says "Live like no one else now so you can live like no one else later". I decided that pine nuts were still a luxury that I could do without and made a mental notation to put the $15.99 in my retirement bucket.

And of course simply forgot about the details of the day.

Two days later, I noticed something very strange. I got a horrid taste in my mouth every time I ate something. I first noticed it while eating some mixed nuts. I thought maybe the nuts had gone rancid. I ate some fruit, which tasted awful. I ate some cheddar cheese...tasted strange to me. I finally realized it wasn't the food that was bad, it was ME.

My tongue felt like it was coated with soap, and everything was metallic. I thought I was getting sick, so I googled "bitter taste in mouth after eating". Lo and behold, the Internet trail is littered with the bodies of others who googled the same thing; I came to the conclusion,

Known as "pine nut syndrome" or "pine nut mouth", I found out there is a scientific name for the phenomena of bitter tasting mouth; "metallogeusia".  You won't find it in any of the online dictionaries, but google it and you'll find lots.  The Wikipedia article on pine nuts gives a pretty good run down on where it comes from, and there is a young woman from Singapore who has been studying the issue and did a graduate thesis on it.  She has a blog called "The Great Pinenut Mystery" (pinenutsyndrome.wordpress.com) in which she discusses the condition, the source, and the fact that retailers are dismissing the issue out of hand saying "we just aren't getting complaints about this".

That was my experience at Costco.  I emailed customer service from the Costco website to let them know this happened to me.  I received a prompt response informing me that my email had been forwarded to the proper department for further consideration.  This afternoon I received a telephone call from a lovely young lady who asked about my experience, told me Costco takes customer complaints/experiences very seriously, and she would make a record of this complaint.

I asked her if Costco was going to let other customers know that this could happen to them, she just told me that any customer could take their pine nuts back for a refund if they have a problem.

I responded by saying "but, they won't know it was the pine nuts that did this to them!  You should tell them!"  I told her about all the stories I'd seen of people who spent a great deal of time and money going to doctors, having doctors misdiagnose their conditions and putting them on expensive medication.  Nope, not going to put a notice out to their customers.  

So, I told her I'd blog about it and let people know.  I might write a letter to the local newspaper as well.  I think people deserve to have as much knowledge as they can get about something like this.  Many retailers are saying nothing because they aren't getting complaints.  Well, I am here to say, no one is complaining because it takes two or three days for this condition to start, and by then no one equates it with pine nut consumption.

Man up, retailers.  Costco, Trader Joe's, Albertson's, Kroger, and many many more.  There is a comprehensive list on  the Pine Nut Mystery blog.

Check it out.  And make your voice heard with the retailers who are substituting cheap, crummy pine nuts for the good ones.


classic_film said...

Good golly, I never knew about this. And I'm a huge pine nut fan. Thanks so much for sharing this valuable information. It sounds like "cheaper isn't better" with pine nuts, especially at Costco.

beachbirdie said...

thanks for stopping by!

There are many people who don't know about this, so hopefully I can reach a few of them! I think people should know!

I love pine nuts too, always have, and never in all my years eating them did this ever happen. Only since the Chines started getting into the market with their pinus armandii!