Rotten Potatoes: Smell, Poison, Health Risks and More

Rotten potatoes

Potatoes are sweet, easy to cook and offer different recipes. But when potatoes are not stored correctly, the result is rotten potatoes with toxic gas. Rotten potatoes smell bad and they can make you sick. However, with the help of straightforward preventive measures, the damage can be minimized.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Potatoes are the most consumed vegetable in the United States. They are delicious, low in calories, and can be baked, roasted, mashed, or fried.

Rotten Potatoes Toxic Gas

The toxic gas produced from rotten potatoes contains much amount of glycoalkaloids. Potatoes contain glycoalkaloids that are required by plants to protect them from pests and diseases.

For humans, this substance is toxic. If it is inhaled, even a smaller amount can cause serious health problems and even death.

Glycoalkaloids found in potatoes are in the peel, sprouts, and especially in the tops and stems. It is also around the place of damage as well as on green areas. The green color on potato tubers appears under the influence of sunlight.

The concentration of chlorophyll increases and the sprouting of potatoes happens. The result is the production of solanine (glycoalkaloids) is also activated. Therefore, you should remove these portions in order to avoid their toxic effects.

Are Rotten Potatoes Deadly?

If you have rotten potatoes at home, they can be deadly. Solanine gas, which is emitted by rotten potatoes, can cause unconsciousness and even death.

A Russian family discovered this in the most unfortunate way.

On Saturday, September 14, a tragedy occurred in the Kusinsky district of the Chelyabinsk region – four people were killed, including a teenager of 16 years old due to rotten potatoes.

The family had stored potatoes in the basement. The old potatoes were so scorched that they become poisonous.

Father went down to the cellar to pick up potatoes. He did not return for a long time. Then mom came down to check what happened, but she suffered the same fate. Brother Mary had no choice but to check the basement too. He did not return either. Grandmother, fearing an unknown danger, called for help from her neighbors.

However, before they arrived, she also decided to see what happened. She also could not return!

There was no serial killer in the basement.

Instead, the culprits were poisonous fumes emitted by rotting potatoes.

A little-known fact about these conventional root crops is that if they spoil, they emit a chemical called a glycoalkaloid. It is toxic by inhalation. This chemical has caused the mysterious and tragic death of Maria Chelysheva’s family.

Mary also went downstairs, but she did not suffer the same fate as her relatives. Why not? Because, fortunately, the grandmother left the door open.

A certain amount of toxic fumes from rotting potatoes managed to weather. Although she survived, Mary remained an orphan and moved to other relatives.

Unfortunately, many people are not aware of the danger associated with rotten potatoes.

What Do Rotten Potatoes Smell Like?

Rotten potatoes smell really bad. This is the worst odor you will ever encounter. They smell like a dead body. Those don’t smell like dead bodies, they are more likely to smell like an animal has perished inside your home, such as a mouse.

What Is The Poisoning Effect Of The Rotten Potatoes?

The potatoes contain Solanine (Glycoalkaloids), the poisoning component solanine is also known as potato toxin. But its content is shallow (0.005% – 0.01%), which is not enough to cause poisoning.

However, in rotten potatoes, the content of Solanine in the shoots and buds can be as high as 0.3% – 0.5%. If a healthy human body ingests 0.2-0.4 grams of Solanine, it can cause acute sprouting potato poisoning.

Can Rotten Potatoes Make You Sick?

Rotten potatoes can make you sick because of their toxic effect. The amount of solanine in green, sprouted, and rotten potato is much higher as compared to fresh and healthy potatoes.

The best way is to avoid eating green or rotten potatoes.

If enough solanine is eaten, you may notice:

First itching or burning sensation in the throat, Burning or pain in the upper abdomen, Gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Rotten potato poisoning symptoms begin about 2 to 4 hours after eating.

Can Rotten Potatoes Kill You?

Deep poisoning may cause dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, and blood pressure due to severe vomiting and diarrhea.

It can also lead to dizziness, headache, and mild disturbance of consciousness which often leads to death due to heart failure and respiratory center paralysis. So it can be said that rotten potatoes can kill you in case of severe and acute poisoning.

Why do Rotten Potatoes Smell Toxic?

The rotten potatoes smell toxic because of glycoalkaloids. Glycoalkaloids are a group of natural compounds that are commonly found in the Solanaceae family, including potatoes.

It is needed by potatoes to protect themselves from pests attacks and diseases. But it smells toxic and acts as a poison for humans.

If one potato is rotten, are they all bad?

If you have one rotten potato in the bag, it can ruin the whole bag. You can throw away the rotten potato in your trash, and this will keep the rot from spreading and spoiling the whole bag.

Set the rotten potatoes aside and other potatoes are safe to eat if they are fresh and hard.

Can You Eat Sprouted Potatoes?

If sprouting potatoes are still hard to touch and they don’t look too wrinkly and shriveled. Remove the sprouted parts, and you can eat them.

But avoid very shriveled or wrinkled potatoes as they can make you sick. They are not only unpalatable, but they are also toxic.

What Should I Do With Rotten Potatoes?

Rotten potatoes should be wasted without any further delay because they can affect other fresh potatoes.

In case you have rotten potatoes at home, air the room instantly, cover your mouth and nose to avoid inhalation of the poisoning component solanine, and throw them outside your home in a sealed trash bag.

Remember: Without safety measures, rotten potatoes’ toxic gas can make a person unconscious if they’ve inhaled enough. This can lead to serious health risks and possibly even death.

Why Do Potatoes Rot?

Rotting Of Potatoes By Bacterial Infections

The disease affects tubers, stems, leaves, and stolons. When the tuber is cut, rot is visible, which is located around the circumference.

The disease is widespread and destroys up to half the crop. Affected tubers can transmit the disease for several generations without symptoms. The infection spreads when harvesting through damage to the skin of the tubers.

Rotting Of Potatoes By Brown Bacterial (Quarantine Disease)

Since 2011, the causative agent of the disease has been found in food potatoes from warm countries.

Infection occurs through the root system. The first sign is the sudden withering of leaves, branches, and the whole plant.

The tuber turns brown and softens the vascular ring. During storage, the pulp is converted to dark mucus.

Potato Wet Rotting

Potato wet rot spreads quickly when stored in a warm and humid room with insufficient ventilation.

Damp rot – penetrates tubers through cuts, scratches, or cracks in the peel that occur when potatoes are affected by various types of scabs.

Dry Rotting Of Potatoes

Fusarium (dry rot) is a disease that develops during the storage of tubers. It affects tubers in the field, but the disease appears only during storage.

First, greyish-brown folds appear on them, then the flesh of the potato becomes loose. And finally, as the tissue dries, cavities with fluffy mycelium appear inside.

Fusarium potatoes in storage are transmitted only to tubers with damaged peels.

Ring Rotten Potatoes 

A tuber girdles a wide yellow ring of infected tissue. The disease is dangerous because a diseased tuber is almost impossible to distinguish from a healthy one.

Rotten patches of pulp are visible only on the cut of potatoes.

How To Store Potatoes So They Will Not Rot?

Michigan State University Extension recommends checking stored potatoes regularly to avoid them from rotting and turning green.
We all know how bad, rotten potatoes smell.

But often we are forced to store it not in the basement or cellar, but in a city apartment.

So here are some ways to store potatoes at home.

How to store potatoes at home?

  • If potatoes are fresh, they should be held for two to three weeks in a dry, dark, well-ventilated place, like in a garage.
  • If there is no garage, it can be an entrance hall or a loggia in the apartment. Maybe in a room that is constantly aired, such a tragic ending does not await us, but methane fumes can be harmful to our health, having a harmful effect on the respiratory organs and the cardiovascular system. To avoid this, you should store the potatoes correctly!
  • It is necessary to sort out the tubers, as some of them may be affected by late blight. You can find out about this by dark spots.
  • When the tubers are dry, they should be stored in the coolest place, for example, in the pantry, in a dry and dark cabinet.
  • Do not put potatoes near the battery – as soon as the heating is turned on, they will become soft and germinate.
  • The best option for storing potatoes is a wooden box with double walls and a lid, lined with sawdust, shavings, or polystyrene foam from the inside. At the bottom, it can be laid straw – it absorbs moisture perfectly. The box can be placed near the balcony or under the window. In the latter case, it is necessary to keep the window open.
  • The optimum temperature for storing potatoes is (6–10°C) degrees Celsius.
  • If you are holding potatoes in a bag, it is better to choose not a plastic bag, but a bag of fabric, so that light does not penetrate there. Otherwise, the tubers will sprout.
  • Do not store potatoes in the refrigerator, as potato starch can turn into sugar, and root crops will acquire an unnaturally sweet aftertaste.
  • In addition, under the influence of light, a toxic substance, solanine, can form in potatoes. Such potatoes have a greenish tint.
  • Subject to these rules, potatoes can be safely stored for up to months and not poison your life – in the literal sense of the word!

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Alyssa Bieler

Alyssa Bieler is a writer with a medical background, currently working for a county health department in Florida. She is a well-respected public health researcher on a variety of topics related to nutrition, wellness, and health.

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