Food businesses have been warned by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to be cautious when using poppy seeds in products, after scientists discovered potentially hazardous levels of morphine in some food-grade seeds.
The warning follows guidance issued to poppy seed growers by the FSA last month, after “morphine-like” effects were observed in some people after eating poppy seeds. More than 1,000 samples of poppy seeds and bakery items containing poppy seeds were tested by FSA scientists.
Poppy seeds are commonly used in muffins, salads and sprinkled on to bread. They do not naturally contain opium alkaloids, such as morphine, but can be contaminated by compounds in the stalks and seed capsules of the plant, said FSA scientists.
“If poppy seeds are consumed as condiments or decoration in bread and fine bakery ware, it is possible that some consumers, particularly toddlers, will exceed the [recommended daily allowance] for morphine on rare occasions,” they added.
An FSA spokeswoman said there were few reports of adverse affects from the traditional consumption of poppy seeds. “But morphine-like effects have been observed in humans following consumption of food containing alkaloid-contaminated poppy seeds.”
Because poppy seeds potentially pose a heightened risk of containing opium alkaloids, they are banned in a number of countries around the world.