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No, vitamin C and shrimps eaten together don’t cause ‘death by arsenic poisoning’

Eating prawns or shrimps together with vitamin C can cause death by “arsenic poisoning”, claims a message circulating on social media.

It popped up on Africa Check Nigeria’s Whatsapp group page, which we created with Nigerian media partners to track false information about health.

It also appears on Facebook.

The message claims a woman died suddenly “with signs of bleeding from her ears, nose, mouth and eyes” and that an autopsy revealed that her death was caused by arsenic poisoning. 

It says: “The deceased used to take vitamin C every day, which in itself is not a problem. The problem was that she ate a large portion of shrimp/prawn during dinner. Eating shrimp/prawn is not the problem likewise, that's why nothing happened to her family even though they had the same shrimp/prawn eaten. However, at the same time, the deceased also took Vitamin C, that is where the problem was!”

Could you die from eating shrimp or prawns if you also take vitamin C supplements? We investigated.

‘Vitamin C and shrimps are healthy’

Africa Check spoke to Prof Vincent Idemyor, a professor of clinical pharmacology in the faculty of pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Port Harcourt in southern Nigeria.

Idemyor explained that “arsenic poisoning occurs when one has a high level of arsenic in the blood”. But arsenic is a “naturally occurring element that is widely distributed in the earth’s crust.” 

Idemyor said there are traces of arsenic in the food we eat, the air we breathe and even water, “meaning arsenic is part of us”.

He added: “Vitamin C and shrimps are healthy meals. The combination is not harmful. This can only happen if the seafood contains poison.” If the shrimp or prawns are “not contaminated”, it’s perfectly safe to eat them eating them while taking vitamin C. – Jennifer Ojugbeli


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