Celebrity chef's recipe … the salad to die for

A MAGAZINE has been forced to issue a correction after celebrity chef Anthony Worrall Thompson mistakenly told its readers to eat a poisonous plant.

The cook, who has appeared on the BBC's cooking programme Ready Steady Cook as well as hosting BBC2's Saturday Kitchen, told readers of Healthy & Organic Living magazine that a weed called henbane "is great in salads".

Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger) is actually classified as a poisonous plant under the 1968 Medicines Act and a derivative of it was used by Dr Crippen to kill his wife in 1910.

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Side effects of eating the weed include vomiting, hallucinations, delirium – and possibly death.

It was historically used in combination with other plants, such as deadly nightshade, as an anaesthetic potion, as well as for its psychoactive properties in "magic" brews.

The magazine ran the comment in an article in its August edition.

In the piece, Worrall Thompson, who also appeared in the second series of I'm a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! was asked "Do you use any wild foods in your dishes?"

The chef, who owns six restaurants including The Notting Grill bar and restaurant in London, replied: "We have a lot of things growing near the restaurant. We use a lot of nettles at this time of year, mainly for soup. The weed henbane is great in salads."

The magazine has now posted a correction on its website.

It states: "Antony Worrall Thompson recommends using henbane in salads. In fact, henbane is a very toxic plant and should never be eaten.

"As always, check with an expert when foraging or collecting wild plants."

The publishers also contacted all its subscription readers and told them to ignore the chef's advice.

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In a letter to readers, editor Kate Collyns said that they wanted to bring to their attention the article and pointed out that in fact henbane was a toxic plant which was a Schedule 3 poison under the government's 1968 Medicines Act.

She wrote: "Anthony is very sorry for causing confusion and had quite a different plant in mind."

Nick Hobley, a member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists, warned that under no circumstances should anyone touch the plant.

"It's highly toxic and could cause death," he said.

"Side effects of henbane poisoning include dry mouth, dilation of the pupils, racing heart, hallucinations, delirium and then a coma."

He added: "Wild foraging is good, but if you don't know what it is then don't touch it."

Kate Cummings, who lives in Haddington, East Lothian and who has bought the magazine in the past, said she was shocked.

She said she often followed the recipes to create healthy meals for her two-year-old son, Connor.

"To be honest I probably would not have been out in the woods looking for the weed to put in my salad, but the idea that they are suggesting poisonous plants to eat is alarming.

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"Obviously they didn't mean to try to deliberately harm anyone, but like lots of people I just buy the magazine from the shops so I haven't received any warning letter and I would never check their website, so it would be quite possible that a reader would go out and try to put henbane on their salad."

Brian McGlone, of Edinburgh, who has subscribed to the magazine for three years, said he received a correction letter last week.

He added: "My wife and I are vegetarians and there is every chance that we could have tried henbane in a salad as we are always looking for something new to add flavour."

A spokesman for Worrall Thompson said: "It was a mistake. He meant a totally different herb altogether."