A consumer group wants to know what the FDA is doing about the safety of poppy seeds

– OPINION –

A year ago, the Center for Science in the Public Interest urged the Food and Drug Administration protect consumers from unprocessed poppy seeds contaminated with natural opiate residues. In one regulatory petition filed with medical experts and six families hurt by tainted poppy seeds, we called on the agency to clean up the US poppy seed supply by setting a maximum limit for opiate contamination and establishing controls on the seeds imported.

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

Poppy seed muffin

European regulators last year set maximum levels for morphine and codeine in poppy seeds and baked goods, which are set to come into force in July. In the United States, while the Department of Justice has pursued enforcement against at least one individual poppy seed distributor for allegedly violating drug control laws, that enforcement has not been enough to prevent even this business to sell seeds.

Last year, researchers from CSPI and the Connecticut Poison Control Center co-authored a study documenting injuries related to the consumption of poppy seeds. 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 Maynedirector of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, CSPI said creating standards for poppy seeds would help solve the problem.

“It is high time for the FDA to establish standards that will protect American consumers from ingesting unsafe levels of opiates through the food supply,” CSPI wrote. “As a result, we request a meeting with you to review the evidence supporting our claims 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 if you would like to speak to families injured by contaminated poppy seeds, click here.

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