Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced this week that she has sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), requesting washed and unwashed poppy seeds be clearly labeled to increase transparency and protect consumers from accidental overdose.
In July, at the urging of Attorney General Rutledge, Bonanza, eBay and Etsy removed labeled unwashed poppy seeds from their online catalogs. Walmart had previously removed their supply. This week’s letter to the FDA focuses on the misleading labels of poppy seed packaging, which could simply say “raw” or “organic” instead of unwashed. Without an “unwashed” label or the disclosure that contents are potentially lethal, retailers are unable to fully remove such items from their sales offerings. The comments and product feedback sections on online sales catalogs are often the guiding source for consumers to determine how to make “tea” with the unwashed seeds to settle their nerves or misuse as a sedative.
“It is my hope that this letter will have the same impact on the federal government as it did with the private sector, bringing broader awareness about the hazards of unwashed poppy seeds,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Arkansans Steve and Betty Hacala have made great strides in sharing their tragic story to save other families from the pain they have experienced. It is time for the federal government to step in to ensure that all potential users are aware of the lethality of unwashed poppy seeds and to ban the sale of poppy seeds that contain controlled substances.”’
In early July, Rutledge sent a letter to a number of online retailers requesting the removal of unwashed poppy seeds from online products. Earlier this year, Attorney General Rutledge released an Attorney General Alert warning consumers of the dangers of unwashed poppy seeds after meeting with the Hacalas to hear the tragic story of their son, Stephen, who died from morphine intoxication after consuming so-called poppy seed tea made from unwashed poppy seeds.
Dr. Stephen Erickson, a Forensic Pathologist at the Arkansas State Crime Lab, partnered with forensic toxicologist Dr. Madeline Swartwood, to conduct a study that found that one particular bag of unwashed poppy seeds contained enough morphine to nearly fill a bottle of 100, 30-milligram morphine pills – an amount comparable to what is prescribed to a palliative bone cancer patient.
In May, Attorney General Rutledge released an Attorney General Alert warning consumers of the dangers of unwashed poppy seeds. Prior to that, Rutledge had met with Steve and Betty Hacala to hear the tragic story of their son, Stephen, who died from morphine intoxication after consuming so-called poppy seed tea made from unwashed poppy seeds.
“It is my duty as Attorney General to protect consumers from identified harmful products like unwashed poppy seeds,” said Attorney General Rutledge at the time. “The accessibility of lethal, unwashed poppy seeds for Arkansans is deeply concerning and is why I will continue to educate and work with companies nationwide to demand these products are removed from the shelves and banned from sale on websites. I am pleased that Walmart, eBay and Bonanza have acted quickly to ban the sale of these dangerous products. I am hopeful that Amazon, Etsy and other retailers will take action soon.”