Potatoes can be a delicious, versatile food that may be used for countless tasty recipes. From mashing them to baking them to slicin’ ’em up and frying them, there are endless ways to enjoy the oh-so-delicious spud.

Unfortunately, potatoes can be extremely dangerous—and you’d never know otherwise. If you’re storing potatoes in your home and they’ve been sitting out for a long time, you may want to throw them out.

Why? Well, that’s because they can kill you—and one Russian family discovered this in the most unfortunate way.

Who doesn’t love the delicious taste of potatoes? As arguably one of the most versatile foods on the planet, there are endless ways to enjoy them. Whether you prefer them baked, mashed, or scalloped, nearly everyone loves this savory side dish.

Yet, for as yummy as potatoes can be, they can also be downright dangerous. All that starch isn’t exactly nutritious, and you’ll have a tendency to use lots of butter and other fatty ingredients (bacon, anyone?) when you’re preparing them.

Now, there’s one more thing you need to worry about when it comes to potatoes: they can actually be quite deadly. If you have a bag of potatoes that’s been sitting in your kitchen or pantry for a long time, you’re probably going to want to throw them away—and here’s the horrifying reason why…

In 2014, an eight-year-old girl from Russia named Maria Chelysheva lost her entire family, and it was all due to a bunch of old potatoes. Like most people, Maria’s family had no idea that the tubers could be deadly under certain circumstances.


It all began when Maria’s father entered the basement to retrieve some potatoes to use for their meal that night—and he never came back upstairs. Concerned, Maria’s mother then walked into the basement to see what he was doing, but she never returned, either.

2-rotten-potatoesAdriane Dizon / Flickr

Tragically, the same thing happened to Maria’s brother. Maria’s grandmother had called a neighbor for help, but by the time the neighbor arrived, the woman had gone into the basement herself, and she suffered the same terrible fate as the rest of the family. Maria was the only one who didn’t venture into the basement.


So what happened? Well, potatoes contain glycoalkaloids, a chemical compound that is also found in poisonous nightshade plants. That makes potatoes naturally toxic under the right conditions. Not only can they become poisonous when they’re consumed, but they can release this deadly chemical into the air.

3-rotten-potatoesD. Gordon E. Robertson / Wikimedia Commons

The concentration of glycoalkaloids can increase substantially the more the potatoes rot, causing them to emit a dangerous, toxic gas when they do. Eventually, exposure to this deadly compound is what killed Maria’s entire family that day—and it could potentially do the same to others.

Maria almost died as well when she started looking for her family. Luckily for her, however, the concentration of the gas had dissipated after her mother left the door open. Nevertheless, her life was never the same after that fateful day.


What happened to Maria and her family was absolutely heartbreaking, but hopefully their story will serve as a warning to others about the dangers of rotten potatoes. If you have potatoes at home that are at risk of going bad, get rid of them before it’s too late!

It’s so strange to think that something can be safe to consume one day and be deadly the next. It’s definitely important to know when certain foods expire.

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