www.foodsafetyselect.com - Food Safety Select
Posted 14/11/2022

Australians warned as people continue to present to hospitals with severe poisoning after drinking home-made poppy seed tea

Australians warned as people continue to present to hospitals with severe poisoning after drinking home-made poppy seed tea

Health warnings have been issued across Australia by state health authorities after multiple people presented themselves to emergency departments after drinking home-brewed poppy seed tea. 

Victoria reported 19 presentions to the emergency departments across the nation, as well one case of cardiac arrest and two cases in intensive care. NSW has reported eight cases and WA one case.

Preliminary investigation suggests that high levels of a naturally occurring chemical in the raw poppy seeds are causing the reaction, with recent clinical presentations suspicious of thebaine (an opioid alkaloid) toxicity.  

Symptoms to look out for include tachycardia, hypertension, hypertonia, clonus, unsteady gait, diaphoresis (sweating), limb stiffness or jerking, seizures, metabolic acidosis, and acute kidney injury.

WA Health’s Director of Environmental Health, Dr Michael Lindsay, said that the consumption of large quantities of poppy seeds could be dangerous.

“Anyone who drinks poppy seed tea should be aware of the significant risk of consumption and note that an unusual dark brown colour and bitter taste in the tea after brewing may indicate unusual toxicity."

”People will not be able to determine which poppy seeds can cause toxicity by the appearance of the seeds."

“It is possible that poppy seeds currently available may have a higher content of naturally occurring thebaine than usual. However other causes have not been excluded and this is still under investigation.”

So far, no cases of poisoning in people who have eaten poppy seeds as part of baked food products have been reported.

Medical Director of the NSW Poisons Information Centre, A/Prof Darren Roberts is "urging anyone who has had large quantities of poppy seeds, for example as a drink, and who experiences any unusual and severe symptoms to seek immediate medical attention".

For help:

  • Call Triple Zero (000) for emergency assistance
  • Go to your nearest emergency department
  • Call your state Poisons Information Centre





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