Poisonings in Australia due to consumption of poppy seed tea
37 people became sick across Australia after consuming home-brewed poppy seed tea. Many of them have been presented to hospital emergency departments. There have been cases requiring intensive care and a cardiac arrest involved.

Preliminary investigation suggested that high levels of thebaine, a naturally occurring chemical in the raw poppy seeds could be a factor, which needed to be well-cooked to be destroyed. There have been no cases of poisoning in people who have eaten poppy seeds as part of a baked food product.

Symptoms of thebaine poisoning can include increased respiratory rate and muscle spasms, which can progress to seizures, breathing difficulty, and unconsciousness. They usually appear within minutes to hours.

Several supermarkets have announced an urgent recall of the popular pantry staple. Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) announced a national recall in mid-November, due to the potential presence of a chemical (thebaine) due to unsafe poppy seeds entering the food supply.

It has finally been confirmed that a batch of poppy seeds not intended for food use and containing high levels of thebaine entered the supply chain. Poppy seeds high in thebaine are used in the production of medicines and other non-food products such as cosmetics and shampoo.

Food-grade poppy seeds are low in thebaine and safe to consume. Washing, soaking and baking also reduces thebaine levels.

In January 2022, US authorities reported that poppy seed tea was gaining popularity – with dangerous consequences. The drink can offer a narcotic, possibly hallucinogenic, high.


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