26 September 2023

Poppy seeds overdose prompts Health warning

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NSW Health is warning people about the dangers of consuming large amounts of poppy seeds after at least eight people in NSW presented to hospital recently with severe poisoning soon after ingestion.

Medical Director of the NSW Poisons Information Centre, Darren Roberts said more cases had been reported interstate.

“Symptoms of poisoning have only been observed when people have purposely consumed poppy seeds as a drink,” Associate Professor Roberts said.

He said symptoms could be severe and include seizures, severe muscle pain and severe muscle spasm, cramping, stiffness or other abnormal movements.

“Preliminary investigation suggests that high levels of a naturally occurring chemical in the raw poppy seeds may be a factor, which needs to be well-cooked to be destroyed,” Prof Roberts said.

“Consuming large quantities of this chemical in poppy seeds can be dangerous,” he said.

“The investigation is ongoing and there have been no cases of poisoning in people who have eaten poppy seeds as part of a baked food product.”

Prof Roberts urged anyone who’d had large quantities of poppy seeds, for example as a drink, and experienced unusual and severe symptoms to seek immediate medical attention by visiting their nearest Emergency Department

He said the NSW Poisons Information Centre could be contacted 24/7 on 13 11 26 and could provide more information about poisons and what to do in suspected cases of poppy seed poisoning.

The Medical Director said NSW Health was working with the NSW Food Authority, as well as other jurisdictions, to investigate the issue further.

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