Healthy Planet – Oakville is recalling certain blue organic poppy seeds because of possible Salmonella contamination.

This recall was triggered by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s inspection activities and comes after a string of poppy seed recalls in the month across Canada.

The recalled product has been sold at Healthy Planet – Oakville, 2501 Hyde Park Gate, Unit C2, Oakville, Ontario.

Recalled products:

Brand Product Size UPC Codes
None Blue organic poppy seeds Variable (sold in bulk) None All packages sold up to and including April 14, 2022

As of the posting of this recall, there have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of this product.

Consumers should not eat the recalled product. Recalled products should be thrown out or returned to the location where they were purchased.

About Salmonella infections
Food contaminated with Salmonella bacteria does not usually look, smell, or taste spoiled. Anyone can become sick with a Salmonella infection. Infants, children, seniors, and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of serious illness because their immune systems are fragile, according to the CDC.

Anyone who has eaten any recalled products and developed symptoms of Salmonella food poisoning should seek medical attention. Sick people should tell their doctors about the possible exposure to Salmonella bacteria because special tests are necessary to diagnose salmonellosis. Salmonella infection symptoms can mimic other illnesses, frequently leading to misdiagnosis.

Symptoms of Salmonella infection can include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating contaminated food. Otherwise, healthy adults are usually sick for four to seven days. In some cases, however, diarrhea may be so severe that patients require hospitalization.

Older adults, children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients, are more likely to develop a severe illness and serious, sometimes life-threatening conditions. Some people get infected without getting sick or showing any symptoms. However, they may still spread the infections to others.

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Industry is recalling more poppy seeds from the marketplace because of possible Salmonella contamination.

Additional brands have been added to the initial poppy seed recall on April 15 and the Inari brand recall on April 12. A full list of the recalled poppy seeds can be found below.

This recalls were triggered by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s inspection activities.

The recalled products have been sold across Canada. 

Recalled products:

Brand Product Size UPC Codes Distribution
Grainworks Organic Poppy Seeds 500 g 6 27544 10863 6 Lot # 7788-08 Sold in Alberta and British Columbia and online
Grainworks Organic Poppy Seeds 1.5 kg 6 27544 10864 3 Lot # 7788-08 Sold in Alberta and British Columbia and online
Grainworks Organic Poppy Seeds 11.34 kg 6 27544 10862 9 Lot # 7788-08 Sold in Alberta and British Columbia and online
Moulin Abénakis Organic Poppy Seeds 400 g 0 67486 10904 7 All lots starting with 20, 21, or 22 Sold in Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick and may have been distributed in other provinces and territories
None Poppy Seeds 300 g 6 28384 90432 7 Lot # 112033113-07 12/16

Sold at:

Oak Manor Organic, 756907 Oxford County Road #5, Tavistock (Ontario)

None Organic Poppy Seeds Variable None All packages sold from May 21, 2021 to April 13, 2022 inclusively

Sold at:

Sunnyside Natural Market, 338 – 10th Street NW, Unit 10, Calgary (Alberta)

Brand Product Size UPC Codes
Inari Organic Blue Poppy Seeds 250 g 6 67390 35001 8 Lot #3142573 Exp:01/23 Lot #3182851 Exp:10/23 Lot #3227118 Exp:10/24

As of the posting of this recall, there have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of this product.

Consumers should not eat the recalled product. Recalled products should be thrown out or returned to the location where they were purchased.

About Salmonella infections
Food contaminated with Salmonella bacteria does not usually look, smell, or taste spoiled. Anyone can become sick with a Salmonella infection. Infants, children, seniors, and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of serious illness because their immune systems are fragile, according to the CDC.

Anyone who has eaten any recalled products and developed symptoms of Salmonella food poisoning should seek medical attention. Sick people should tell their doctors about the possible exposure to Salmonella bacteria because special tests are necessary to diagnose salmonellosis. Salmonella infection symptoms can mimic other illnesses, frequently leading to misdiagnosis.

Symptoms of Salmonella infection can include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating contaminated food. Otherwise, healthy adults are usually sick for four to seven days. In some cases, however, diarrhea may be so severe that patients require hospitalization.

Older adults, children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients, are more likely to develop a severe illness and serious, sometimes life-threatening conditions. Some people get infected without getting sick or showing any symptoms. However, they may still spread the infections to others.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

Industry is recalling various poppy seeds from the marketplace because of possible Salmonella contamination.

This recall was triggered by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s inspection activities.

The recalled products have been sold across Canada. The specific locations and brands can be found in the table below.

Recalled products:

Brand Product Size UPC Codes Distribution
Grainworks Organic Poppy Seeds 500 g 6 27544 10863 6 Lot # 7788-08 Sold in Alberta and British Columbia and online
Grainworks Organic Poppy Seeds 1.5 kg 6 27544 10864 3 Lot # 7788-08 Sold in Alberta and British Columbia and online
Grainworks Organic Poppy Seeds 11.34 kg 6 27544 10862 9 Lot # 7788-08 Sold in Alberta and British Columbia and online
Moulin Abénakis Organic Poppy Seeds 400 g 0 67486 10904 7 All lots starting with 20, 21, or 22 Sold in Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick and may have been distributed in other provinces and territories
None Poppy Seeds 300 g 6 28384 90432 7 Lot # 112033113-07 12/16

Sold at:

Oak Manor Organic, 756907 Oxford County Road #5, Tavistock (Ontario)

None Organic Poppy Seeds Variable None All packages sold from May 21, 2021 to April 13, 2022 inclusively

Sold at:

Sunnyside Natural Market, 338 – 10th Street NW, Unit 10, Calgary (Alberta)

As of the posting of this recall, there have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of this product.

Consumers should not eat the recalled product. Recalled products should be thrown out or returned to the location where they were purchased.

About Salmonella infections
Food contaminated with Salmonella bacteria does not usually look, smell, or taste spoiled. Anyone can become sick with a Salmonella infection. Infants, children, seniors, and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of serious illness because their immune systems are fragile, according to the CDC.

Anyone who has eaten any recalled products and developed symptoms of Salmonella food poisoning should seek medical attention. Sick people should tell their doctors about the possible exposure to Salmonella bacteria because special tests are necessary to diagnose salmonellosis. Salmonella infection symptoms can mimic other illnesses, frequently leading to misdiagnosis.

Symptoms of Salmonella infection can include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating contaminated food. Otherwise, healthy adults are usually sick for four to seven days. In some cases, however, diarrhea may be so severe that patients require hospitalization.

Older adults, children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients, are more likely to develop a severe illness and serious, sometimes life-threatening conditions. Some people get infected without getting sick or showing any symptoms. However, they may still spread the infections to others.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

Puresource Natural Products is recalling Inari brand Organic Blue Poppy Seeds because of possible Salmonella contamination.

The recalled product has been sold in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, and Saskatchewan and may have been distributed in other provinces and territories.

Recalled product:

Brand Product Size UPC Codes
Inari Organic Blue Poppy Seeds 250 g 6 67390 35001 8 Lot #3142573 Exp:01/23 Lot #3182851 Exp:10/23 Lot #3227118 Exp:10/24

As of the posting of this recall, there have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of this product.

Consumers should not eat the recalled product. Recalled products should be thrown out or returned to the location where they were purchased.

About Salmonella infections

Food contaminated with Salmonella bacteria does not usually look, smell, or taste spoiled. Anyone can become sick with a Salmonella infection. Infants, children, seniors, and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of serious illness because their immune systems are fragile, according to the CDC.

Anyone who has eaten any recalled products and developed symptoms of Salmonella food poisoning should seek medical attention. Sick people should tell their doctors about the possible exposure to Salmonella bacteria because special tests are necessary to diagnose salmonellosis. Salmonella infection symptoms can mimic other illnesses, frequently leading to misdiagnosis.

Symptoms of Salmonella infection can include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating contaminated food. Otherwise, healthy adults are usually sick for four to seven days. In some cases, however, diarrhea may be so severe that patients require hospitalization.

Older adults, children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients, are more likely to develop a severe illness and serious, sometimes life-threatening conditions. Some people get infected without getting sick or showing any symptoms. However, they may still spread the infections to others.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

– OPINION –

A year ago the Center for Science in the Public Interest urged the Food and Drug Administration to protect consumers from unprocessed poppy seeds contaminated with naturally occurring opiate residues. In a regulatory petition filed along with medical experts and six families injured by contaminated poppy seeds, we asked the agency to clean up America’s poppy seed supply by setting a maximum limit for opiate contamination and establishing controls on imported seeds.

CSPI is asking the FDA for an update on the petition. Other than issuing pro forma responses and collecting comments on a public docket, the FDA has taken no public action, despite increased interest in this issue from consumers, state officials, and members of Congress from both parties. The vast majority of the nearly 3,300 comments to the docket were submitted by individual consumers concerned that the FDA was allowing opiate-contaminated poppy seeds into the food supply.

Poppy seed muffin

European regulators established maximum levels of morphine and codeine in poppy seeds and baked goods last year, which are scheduled to take effect in July. In the U.S., while the Department of Justice has pursued enforcement against at least one individual distributor of poppy seeds for allegedly violating drug control laws, that enforcement has not been sufficient to block even that one company from selling seeds.

Last year, researchers at CSPI and Connecticut Poison Control Center co-authored a study documenting injuries related to poppy seed consumption. The group estimates that there have been 20 non-fatal overdoses and 19 deaths in the United States attributable to opiate-contaminated poppy seeds, most of which have occurred since 2015. In a letter to Susan Mayne, director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, CSPI said that creating standards for poppy seeds would help address the problem.

“The time is overdue for the FDA to establish standards that will protect U.S. consumers from ingesting dangerous levels of opiates through the food supply,” CSPI wrote. “Accordingly, we are requesting a meeting with you to review the evidence supporting our requests, and to receive an update on the status of our petition.”

If you would like more information from CSPI scientists or lawyers about our work in this area, or would like to talk to families injured by contaminated poppy seeds, click here.

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The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is urging the Food and Drug Administration to protect consumers from unprocessed poppy seeds, which are often contaminated with the plant’s naturally occurring opiate residues.

The nonprofit nutrition and food safety watchdog group on Feb. 5  filed a regulatory petition with the FDA on behalf of six families injured by contaminated poppy seeds and medical experts. They’re asking regulators to clean up America’s poppy seed supply by setting a maximum threshold for opiate contamination and establishing controls on imported seeds.

Steve and Betty Hacala of Rogers, AR, lost their 24-year-old son Stephen in 2016 to a poppy seed tea overdose.

“It was hard for us to believe that something as innocent and common as poppy seeds could be lethal,” said Steve Hacala, one of the petitioners. “Now we want to make sure the poppy seeds brought into this country are cleaned, to spare other families this kind of loss.”

Poppy seeds used in baking come from the same plant that produces opiates, including morphine and codeine. The poppy plant cannot be legally grown in the United States, meaning all poppy seeds sold in this country are imported from countries where cultivation is permitted. While the seeds themselves contain negligible amounts of opiates, they can be contaminated with plant debris and require washing and processing to reduce opiate contamination to safe levels.

Not all importers adequately process their seeds, and some sellers even market poppy seeds as “unwashed” or “unprocessed” to convey that they have high levels of opiates to consumers who may purchase the seeds to brew poppy seed tea. This tea is typically used for medicinal, therapeutic, or recreational purposes and can concentrate the opiates from a batch of seeds. Consumers of these seeds may not be aware that the effects from the consumption of the seeds may be because of opiates. In addition, opiate contamination levels can vary widely from batch to batch, putting those who drink the tea at increased risk of accidental overdose or other health consequences.

Other signatories of the petition include Linda Golden of South Carolina and Jeffery Folds of Georgia, the mother and cousin of Todd Shirley, who died at age 48 in 2019 because of poppy seed tea overdose; and Bob and Lori Morales, and Kristen Harris, all of Nevada, the parents, and wife of Kendall Harris, who died at age 38 because of overdose from unwashed poppy seeds purchased on Amazon. Paul Lancia of St. Louis, MO, joined the petition after his wife suffered multiple strokes which her doctor suspected were caused by heavy poppy seed tea consumption.

Some signatories to the petition were shocked to find they tested positive for drugs after unwittingly consuming contaminated poppy seeds. Neither Elizabeth Dominguez of Tonawanda, NY, nor Jamie Silakowski of Depew, NY, used any opioids during their pregnancy, but both tested positive after eating baked goods with poppy seeds.

“I’m devastated that a simple poppy seed bagel could cause this much distress,” said Dominguez, who tested positive for opioids during routine drug testing given to mothers prior to delivery in some hospitals. She was temporarily separated from her newborn and visited at home multiple times by Child Protective Services because of the test triggered by poppy seeds.

The petition was also joined by Dr. Irving Haber, a pain medicine specialist, and Dr. Madeleine Swortwood, a researcher at Sam Houston State University, who have published studies documenting the risks of poppy seed tea.

The petition follows the publication this past month of a study co-authored by CSPI scientists in Clinical Toxicology showing that adverse events from the consumption of opiate-contaminated poppy seeds may be on the rise. Medical and government publications have documented more than 600 reported adverse events including 20 overdoses and 19 total fatalities attributed to poppy in the U.S., with most fatalities have occurred since 2015.

CSPI previously called on the FDA and the Drug Enforcement Agency to address the risks of contaminated poppy seeds in April of 2019. In December 2019, the DEA clarified that selling opiate-contaminated poppy seeds can be illegal under the Controlled Substances Act.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest is a nonprofit  food and health organization that serves as a watchdog group for public interests.

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In a letter to the country’s top medical official, the Center for Science in the Public Interest asked U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams to issue an advisory warning people of the dangers of contaminated, unwashed poppy seeds and poppy seed pods.

Opium and other chemicals in the unwashed seeds and seed pods have caused numerous deaths and serious overdoses, some of which caused permanent brain damage, according to the letter from leaders for the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). The poppy seeds and seed pods are sold as so-called natural food, usually intended to be eaten or brewed into tea.

Online sales of the seeds and seed pods are of particular concern, according to the letter signed by CSPI leaders Peter Lurie, president, Laura MacCleery policy director, and Sarah Sorscher, deputy director of regulatory affairs. They say the products are easily obtained from websites such as amazon.com and ebay.com. They also told the surgeon general that other websites offer “recipes” for brewing tea that concentrate the opium from pounds of the seeds or pods into relatively small amounts of liquid.

Some websites and blogs also offer tips on how to determine which unwashed poppy seeds and pods to buy to obtain the highest concentrations of morphine, codeine, thebaine, and other opiate alkaloids, according to the CSPI letter.

The group sent a similar letter to the Food and Drug Administration’s leadership in April. In Monday’s letter to Surgeon General Adams, the CSPI leadership repeated several points included in the letter to the FDA. 

“Typically, the fact that the seeds may be contaminated with opiates is not clearly indicated in the labeling or advertising materials, and users seeking contaminated seeds instead utilize coded language in product reviews, sometimes offered on third-party blogs, to signal which seeds are most likely to contain high concentrations of opiates,” the CSPI told the surgeon general. 

“The contaminated seeds thus remain widely available, including through the online shopping platform Amazon.com, despite the fact that the retailer has been informed multiple times of the risks of these products, including on April 25, 2018, by Sen. Tom Cotton, on July 13, 2018, by Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, and most recently on Feb. 27 in a letter sent by the family of a victim who died from poppy seeds purchased on the platform.”

Some people who have opioid use disorder use these products as substitutes for other opioids, according to the CSPI letter and statements from the FDA and U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. Other people have begun using the products believing they were harmless natural herbal remedies, not fully realizing the potential for dependence and abuse.

The CSPI letter to the surgeon general included a chart with information about people who have suffered severe consequences of using unwashed poppy seeds and or pods. The letter also provided history and international context for regulating such products.

“The opium poppy, Papaver somniferum, naturally produces opiate alkaloids, including morphine, codeine, and thebaine, which are concentrated in the seed pod and milky sap of the plant. The opiates found in the Papaver somniferum plant are highly addictive, leading the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to list ‘poppy straw,’ which is defined as parts of the poppy plant other than the seeds, as a controlled substance under Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). As a result of this listing, and under the provisions of several international agreements, Papaver somniferum cannot be legally cultivated in the United States, and therefore raw materials must be imported to produce opioids for pharmaceutical use as well as poppy seeds sold as foods. . . 

“Poppy seeds may become contaminated with poppy straw and sap in the fields or during harvest, necessitating washing and processing to remove the alkaloids. 

“The European Commission has developed guidance on good practices to prevent and reduce the presence of opium alkaloids in poppy seeds and poppy seed products. These practices begin with selecting seeds from varieties cultivated for food use, which are bred to contain a low level of opium alkaloids. Appropriate processing can be highly effective; the combination of washing and drying can reduce morphine concentrations in highly contaminated batches of raw poppy seeds (original concentrations vary from 50 to 220 mg morphine/kg) down to concentrations below 4 mg morphine/kg without loss of quality and organoleptic properties.

“The United Kingdom has issued guidance setting a target level of 10 mg morphine/kg for the presence in poppy seeds placed on the market destined for the final consumer. . . 

“One research team at Sam Houston State University recently analyzed samples of poppy seeds purchased online and found that morphine concentrations in some samples were high enough to yield 2788 mg of morphine from 1 kilogram (2.2 lbs) of seeds, in addition to codeine and thebaine. 

“Assuming a batch of seeds with up to 2788 mg/kg of morphine, brewing 0.44 lbs. of seeds per the Mercola recipe instructions could produce up to 557 mg morphine, and 3 lbs of seeds (the maximum suggested by Chewworld.com) could yield up to 3801 mg of morphine. These amounts are well above the dose of 50 morphine mg equivalents per day demonstrated to increase the risk of overdose among patients prescribed morphine for pain treatment.

The CPSI’s letter includes links to source material documenting numerous cases of overdose, dependence, and death, “and these cases appear to be more common over time.” CSPI has identified 5 cases of non-fatal overdose, 7 cases of opioid dependence, and 13 confirmed deaths associated with the use of poppy seeds or seed pods from the medical literature, a 2010 DOJ Drug Alert, and case reports in the FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Adverse Event Reporting System (CAERS) database.

“All but four of these 25 cases involved men — 84 percent — and the median age was 26 years (with a range of) 6 weeks-82 years; age was unavailable for six cases,” the letter states. “Typically, the product was administered as a tea, usually made from about 1-2 pounds of poppy seeds, but occasionally from the poppy pod. Eighteen of the cases took place in the United States, including all 13 deaths. 

“. . . Based on our review, the problem appears to be worsening in recent years.”

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The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), on Wednesday, called on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to crack down on the sale of contaminated poppy seeds and seed pods in the wake of at least 12 American deaths.

CSPI asked officials at the agencies to jointly clarify that it is illegal to import and distribute contaminated poppy seeds and that those who do are subject to federal prosecution. At the same time, Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) said he intends to introduce new legislation, the Stephen Hacala Poppy Seed Safety Act, to amend the law to ensure that contaminated poppy seeds may not be sold to consumers.

Opiates such as morphine and codeine occur naturally in the opium poppy, which is why its cultivation is prohibited in the United States. The DEA lists “poppy straw”—all parts of the poppy plant other than the seeds—as a Schedule II controlled substance.

While the sale and importation of poppy seeds are legal, seeds can become contaminated by poppy straw and sap in the fields and during processing.

Importation of contaminated poppy seeds is illegal. Opiate contamination can be brought down to safe levels by washing and drying the seeds. Nevertheless, potentially contaminated poppy seeds are widely available at several online retailers, including Amazon and eBay. Recipes for poppy seed “teas” abound on web sites such as Mercola.com and Chewworld.com.

“Poppy seed teas are responsible for numerous cases of addiction, overdose, and death,” said CSPI president Dr. Peter G. Lurie. “This 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 exercise their authorities fully.”

Stephen P. Hacala, a 24-year-old Arkansas man, died after drinking tea made from contaminated poppy seeds purchased on Amazon.com in 2016, prompting Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge (R) to contact the FDA and prompting Senator Cotton to ask then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions and DEA Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon to stop the products’ sale. Hacala’s parents, Steve and Betty Hacala, are in Washington today meeting officials at FDA for the second time.

“Our family is still in shock over the death of our son Stephen from consuming morphine-laced poppy seeds,” said Betty Hacala. “We have been working tirelessly since his death to raise awareness and drive change so that other families don’t have to suffer as we have. We implore the FDA and DEA to act now.”

Mr. Hacala’s death is among at least 12 deaths from poppy tea reported in the United States since 2010. Ten of these deaths, including Mr. Hacala’s, were published in the medical literature, a 2010 Department of Justice Alert, or the FDA’s adverse event reporting database.

Two new deaths occurred within the past few months: In December, a 44-year-old Utah woman passed away with poppy seeds ordered online found at the scene. And just last month a 46-year-old man died after brewing a concoction of poppy seeds and concentrated lemon juice. Shipping packages and phone records showed that he had ordered several bags of poppy seeds online.

“Stephen Hacala Jr. died from an opioid overdose because of a dangerous gap in our nation’s drug laws,” said Senator Cotton. “Despite government warnings, unwashed poppy seeds, which can contain lethal doses of morphine, are still available for sale online. As our country continues to fight the opioid crisis, it’s time to end sales of unwashed seeds so that no other families experience the pain the Hacala family has endured.”

Besides asking the FDA and DOJ to jointly clarify to industry and retailers that unwashed poppy seeds are illegal, CSPI is urging the FDA and DEA to conduct random sampling and testing of poppy seeds offered for sale by online retailers and at border posts, and to prioritize inspections of poppy seed distributors. CSPI is also asking the FDA to issue guidance to industry advising of good manufacturing practices to reduce opiate contamination in poppy seeds

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A man who has been seeking changes to U.S. law since his son died from morphine intoxication in 2016 expects to see bills filed in April. His son wasn’t using drugs. It was unwashed poppy seeds, bought on Amazon.com and brewed as tea, that killed him.

The draft legislation expected to be introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate in early April. It would establish the definition of unwashed poppy seeds as “poppy seeds that have not been processed to adequately remove poppy straw, latex, or other contaminants that may contribute to levels of morphine, codeine, or other compounds that pose a potential risk to health.”   

If approved by Congress and signed into law by the president, the Act will make unwashed poppy seeds an adulterant, meaning it would be illegal to sell them or any foods or beverages that contain them.

Steve Hacala is pleased about the movement on Capitol Hill. He was similarly pleased when Walmart pulled unwashed poppy seeds from it’s shelves after his son’s death. He’s not pleased that online entities such as Amazon continue to sell various brands of unwashed poppy seeds. The seeds’ labels make a variety unfounded claims about health benefits.

Investigators determined those labeling claims were behind the death of Stephen Patrick Hacala Jr.  

“Law enforcement authorities were confounded by the cause of death. There was no evidence of trauma and no evidence of drugs in Stephen’s apartment. The presence, however, of a partially used five-pound bag of poppy seeds and a water bottle containing some of the wet seeds raised suspicion,” according to a letter U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton sent to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb in Aug. 2018.

“Upon further review and research of Stephen’s Amazon.com purchases of poppy seeds, it was later determined that the unwashed poppy seeds killed Stephen. Stephen had purchased the seeds in order to make so-called poppy seed tea, presumably to achieve the calming effect that Amazon.com online reviews explain to online consumers. An autopsy revealed that Stephen in fact died from morphine intoxication.” 

The timing of the action in the U.S. capital coincidently comes as French officials are warning the public there to not consume baguettes and ready-made sandwiches made with poppy seed bread.  

The officials issued the alert after employees at French companies tested positive for opiates. The workers were adamant that they hadn’t taken any drugs, according to news reports. Tests confirmed poppy seeds in bread they had eaten contained particularly high amounts of alkaloids. 

The road to the rule of law

In April 2018 the elder Hacala and his wife Betty traveled to Washington D.C. to meet with FDA officials. The couple urged the officials to crackdown on poppy seed sales. 

In July 2018 Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge wrote to executives of several online sales operations, including Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, urging them to remove unwashed poppy seeds from their offerings. As of March 15 this year, unwashed poppy seeds continue to be available on Amazon and other websites. 

In August 2018 Rutledge wrote to the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration asking that the agency adopt regulations requiring poppy seeds to be labeled according to their “potentially harmful contents and to prohibit the sale of poppy seeds that contain controlled substances.”

“Poppy seeds are sometimes used as an ingredient in baking products in the United States. Washed and prepared in the proper way, they are appropriate for consumption,” Rutledge said in the letter to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb.

“If sold ‘unwashed,’ however, the seeds have the potential to cause unexpected intoxication, illness, and death. This is because the opium poppy plant contains a latex at the point where poppy seeds are extracted. This latex also contains morphine, codeine, and thebaine — all deadly controlled substances. When prepared for consumption, poppy seeds are washed and processed in order to remove trace amounts of these substances from the seeds. But in the unwashed, natural, or raw state, the poppy seeds are dangerous.”

The variable toxicity of unwashed poppy seeds combined with the internet have made for a dangerous situation for consumers around the world, Bill Marler said. One pot of tea made from the seeds might not have any negative effect, but the next one could kill you.

“Amazon is still selling this stuff. Essentially a Schedule 1 drug is being sold over the counter,” said Marler, who has specialized in representing victims of food poisoning since the deadly 1993 E. coli outbreak traced to Jack in the Box hamburgers.

Editor’s note: Seattle attorney Bill Marler is a founding member of Marler Clark LLP and publisher of Food Safety News.

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Drew’s Organics LLC of Chester, VT, is recalling one lot code of Aldi Simply Nature Organic Poppy Seed Dressing because of a processing issue that could allow for microbial growth.

The recall was initiated after Drew’s Organics observed a color difference in the Simply Nature Organic Poppy Seed Dressing after manufacturing. Investigation revealed out-of-specification pH with the potential for microbial growth, including Clostridium botulinum.

There is concern that consumers may have the dressing in their homes because of the long shelf life. Some of the product does not expire until 2023.

The recalled product was been distributed to select Aldi stores between Aug. 20 and Sept. 10 in the following states: Alabama, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Dakota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Vermont, Wisconsin and West Virginia.

Consumers can use the following information to determine whether they ave the recalled dressing in their homes:

  • The recalled product comes in 12 fluid ounce glass bottles.
  • It has a “Best if Used By” date of Feb. 15, 2023.
  • The UPC number is 4099100023169.  
  • The lot code is printed on the shoulder of the bottle above the label.

As of the posting of this recall, no illnesses related to this product have been reported. 

Consumers should discontinue use of this product and return it to their place of purchase for a full refund.

About botulism
While a variety of food poisoning can result from eating under-processed food, one of the most dangerous is botulism poisoning. Untreated, botulism can paralyze the muscles needed for breathing, resulting in sudden death.

Anyone who has eaten any recalled products and developed signs of botulism poisoning should immediately seek medical attention, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“In foodborne botulism, symptoms generally begin 18 to 36 hours after eating contaminated food. However, symptoms can begin as soon as 6 hours after or up to 10 days later,” according to the CDC website.

The symptoms of botulism may include some or all of the following: double vision, blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, difficulty breathing, a thick-feeling tongue, dry mouth, and muscle weakness. People with botulism poisoning may not show all of these symptoms at once.

These symptoms result from muscle paralysis caused by the toxin. If untreated, the disease may progress, and symptoms may worsen to cause paralysis of specific muscles, including those used in breathing and those in the arms, legs, and the body from the neck to the pelvis area. Many patients must be placed on ventilators to breath.

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