January 12, 2021

CSPI Calls on FDA to End Sales of Unwashed Poppy Seeds After 12 Americans Die

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is asking the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to crack down on the sale of unwashed poppy seeds and seed pods after at least 12 Americans have died after consuming these products. The agency sent a letter to the FDA in April 2019. Those deaths are associated with a type of tea that is made from poppy seeds or pods.

CSPI President Dr. Peter G. Lurie said in a statement, “Poppy seed teas are responsible for numerous cases of addiction, overdose, and death.┬áThis little-known aspect of the opioid epidemic does appear to be worsening in terms of its toll. The FDA and the Department of Justice are aware of the problem but have failed to fully exercise their authorities.”

One man, Stephen P. Hacala, died after he drank tea made from unwashed poppy seeds that were purchased on Amazon in 2016. The tea caused an opioid overdose. This is just one of at least 12 deaths reported in this country since 2010. Ten of those deaths were reported in medical literature, a Department of Justice Alert back in 2010, and the FDA’s adverse event reporting database.

Two deaths have occurred in the past few months. In December, a 44-year-old Utah woman died. Poppy seeds ordered online were found at the scene. And in May 2019, a man died after making a brew of poppy seeds and concentrated lemon juice. He had ordered several bags of poppy seeds online. The poppy seeds can contain lethal doses of morphine, and are still available for sale online.

CSPI is also asking the FDA and DEA to conduct random sampling and testing of poppy seeds that are for sale online and at border post. The agency also wants the government to issue prioritize inspections of poppy seed distributors and to issue guidance to industry. They say that good manufacturing process guidelines are necessary to reduce the opiate contamination in poppy seeds.


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