Man suffers acid burns to face after eating fruit on holiday

A UK tourist was left with third-degree burns on his face after biting into an exotic fruit at a market in Mexico. Thomas Harold Watson, 28, says he experienced a burning feeling like "fire" going across his mouth immediately after biting into the wrong part of the fruit.

He had unwittingly bitten into the outer shell of a cashew nut – two layers of hard shell which contain cardol and anacardic acid - which can cause vicious burns. Cashew nuts grow on cashew trees, with the nut encased in a hard shell, attached to an edible fruit known as cashew apple.

Thomas said he’d heard cashew apples were edible and was keen to try one – but had no idea about the dangers of biting into the cashew nut casing. Despite biting into the fruit at a market in Campeche, in the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico, on Wednesday, May 1, he says his injuries have still not healed.

And Thomas says he’s concerned he may be left with permanent scarring across his face. Thomas, a construction site manager and travel influencer, from Luton, Bedfordshire, said: “You can eat the cashew apple fruit, it’s meant to be a bit bitter.

“I’d heard about it but never tried it in the flesh, so I bought it, went for a walk and started eating a few different fruits. The cashew nut grows on the side of the apple, so I thought I’d open it up – it felt like a passion fruit, and I bit into this sac which exploded straight away.

“Instantly it felt like fire, I could feel this fire going across my mouth. The next day when I woke up, my whole face was completely burnt.

“I could not believe the pain just from biting into one case - even my hands have gone discoloured from where the acid burnt them so badly.”

Thomas said he’d ventured out to Mexico with friends for a trip away, and decided to go for a solo adventure while there. He says he was keen to visit the Yucatan peninsula and, while walking through the market, he noticed the range of exotic fruits.

Aware the cashew apple was edible and keen to try some local produce, he took the plunge and bought some of the unusual fruit. But he says he had no idea of the dangers of biting the hard casing of the cashew nut – and only discovered after a Google search that workers who shell cashews can suffer from severe burns to their hands and arms.

He was advised to go to the hospital but said he didn't go as he was concerned he'd be left with a hefty bill. Thomas says it’s not put him off eating local foods but thinks some local knowledge would have proved useful.

“It’s always good to eat local foods but I guess it’s also good to have a bit of knowledge about them, it was instant regret,” Thomas said. “The next morning when I woke up my whole face was scabby and really bad.

“When my lips were all burnt they literally felt like they’d be dissolved, it felt like my lip had gone like baking paper for three or four days. A couple of days ago I was able to peel off my whole lip, it was a couple of inches wide – they're still quite burnt up and not great but way better than they were.

“I’m very surprised no one else seems to have same story, I thought someone else would have done the same thing, you naturally use your teeth if you don't have a knife on you. It feels like I'm the first which was biggest surprise – I'd rather laugh about it and tell other people to avoid it.”