The HPA has been receiving enquiries about possible risks associated with bracelets made from jequirity beans, which contain the poison abrin which is very toxic.
The background to this is that in December 2011, the Eden Project in Cornwall voluntarily recalled bracelets sold in their gift shop which contained Jequirity beans.
While these beans do contain a poison, it is extremely unlikely that an individual would chew through the hard shell of the seed and ingest the abrin. Jequirity beans are not particularly harmful in their natural state and the seeds are not expected to cause serious problems if swallowed whole and not chewed.
There have been no reported cases of poisonings from the bracelets but ingestion of any quantity of chewed, crushed or drilled (e.g. from a necklace) beans should be regarded seriously and anyone who is suspected of ingesting them should seek medical advice immediately.
If people think they are in possession of the Jequirity bean bracelets it is recommended that they return them to the supplier. If this is not possible then the bracelets should be bagged and disposed of through normal household waste. In line with good hand hygiene practices, and as an additional precaution, owners should also wash hands and avoid touching eyes after bagging.
Jequirity beans come from the plant Abrus precatorius, commonly known as the jequirity bean or rosary pea plant. This plant is a tropical vine primarily from south east Asia but has spread to subtropical areas. It is often cultivated as an ornamental plant. The plant produces a seed pod which contains several seeds (often called peas or beans) which are usually scarlet in colour with a black spot at one end and are approximately 3 mm by 8 mm in size. The seeds are often used in ornaments, necklaces, rosaries and in musical shakers (e.g. maracas).