Community notice – contaminated poppy seeds causing severe negative reactions

Several cases of severe toxicity after consuming poppy seed tea have recently presented to various hospitals in southeast Queensland, New South Wales, Western Australia and Northern Territory.

Some of the patients reported that the poppy seed brew had a bitter taste and was much darker in colour than usual. Toxic effects have only been observed when poppy seeds have been consumed in concentrated forms such as tea.

Toxic effects are not expected when using poppy seeds for intended culinary uses such as in baked goods. There is potentially high thebaine content in poppy seeds that results in thebaine poisoning. You cannot tell which poppy seeds have high thebaine content by looking at the seeds.

Toxic effects Presentations have had unexpected features including:

  • dizziness
  • muscle pain
  • muscle spasm and rigidity
  • muscle breakdown (rhabdomyolysis)
  • seizures
  • cardiac arrest

Seek medical attention immediately if you experience any toxic effects following drug use For help: Call Triple Zero (000) for emergency assistance, Go to your nearest emergency department or call your relevant poison emergency contact centre.

Written by Mitch Lamb

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