July 31, 2021

Petition For FDA to Protect Consumers From Unprocessed Poppy Seeds

The Center for Science in the Public Interest has petitioned the FDA, asking them to protect consumers from unprocessed poppy seeds. That ingredient can be contaminated with the plant’s opiate residues and has caused illness, including strokes, and death. The regulatory petition was filed on behalf of six families who were affected by this product. The petition asks that the FDA set a “maximum threshold for opiate contamination and establishing controls on imported seeds.”

Petition For FDA to Protect Consumers From Unprocessed Poppy Seeds

The poppy plant cannot be legally grown in the United States, so poppy seeds are imported. The seeds do not have significant amounts of opiates, but they are sometimes contaminated with plant debris. Processing must reduce that contamination to safe levels but unfortunately not all importers do this. Making things worse, the opiate level can vary widely, so anyone buying these seeds never know how much they will consume.

Some poppy seeds are marketed as “unwashed” or “unprocessed” to let purchasers know that they have high levels of opiates. Some people use those seeds to brew poppy seed tea and can be used for medicinal purposes during the opioid crisis. And others buy the seeds while never knowing about this problem.

A study in January 2021 that was coauthored by CSPI scientists that was published in Clinical Toxicology showed that adverse events from the consumption of these seeds may be on the rise. More than 600 adverse events have been reported, including 20 overdoses and 19 fatalities in the United States. The study’s authors recommend that healthcare providers working in opioid recovery be alert to the use of poppy to treat pain.

This is the second time CSPI has asked the FDA and Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to do someone about the risks of contaminated poppy seeds. The last time was in April 2019. In December 2019, the DEA said that selling unprocessed poppy seeds contaminated with opiates can be illegal under the Controlled Substances Act.

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