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    Rutledge Asks FDA to Prohibit the Sale of Unwashed Poppy Seeds


    August 6, 2018

    Says, ‘It is time for the federal government to step in to ensure that poppy seeds are appropriately labeled and that the sale of unwashed poppy seeds containing controlled substances are banned’

    LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced 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. Today’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.

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