Yucca Confusion

Amidst vast food shortages, Venezuelans are mistakenly eating and dying from a poisonous variety of yucca. In the last 6 months, 28 people have died after eating the bitter, rather than sweet, version of the inexpensive, starchy root.

Yucca has become popular during a time when low oil prices have limited Venezuala’s ability to import food. Recent reports suggest 75% of citizens have lost an average of 19 pounds. Such weight loss may make their bodies weak and susceptible to poisoning.

To curb the catastrophe, news programs are offering tips on how to tell the difference between yucca roots.

Source: WBUR Here and Now

Ed. Note: Africans have another name for yucca (yuca). They call the dietary staple cassava. A bitter, drought-tolerant variety of cassava has been tied to the paralytic disease konzo. Read Amy Maxmen’s series, “Bitter Harvest: Cassava and Konzo, the Crippling Disease” based on her reporting in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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