Scientists have warned that poppy seeds which are used in UK bakery products may contain hazardous morphine levels.
The seeds, regularly used in muffins, pasta, salads and as sprinkles on bread, do not contain opium alkaloids naturally. However, it is possible for them to be contaminated from compounds which are present in the seed capsules and stalks.
According to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) ‘morphine-like’ effects were seen in some people after they had consumed poppy seeds.
Scientists used 1033 poppy seed samples and bakery products in their analysis and have issued warnings, particularly to young people, about the risks of eating these products.
Scientists stated that if the seeds are eaten as condiments or as decoration in breads, it is possible for consumers, particularly toddlers, to exceed the reference dosage for morphine on certain occasions.
The largest producer of poppies in the UK is Macfarlan Smith, a drugs company which operates plants in Lincolnshire, Dorset, Hampshire and Oxfordshire for the production of morphine operates under a Home Office licence.
The company also produces about 1200 tons of poppy seeds used for culinary purposes each year. The company stated that it complies with the highest standards of production at all its plants and the seeds which it processes at its premises are not at risk of being contaminated by morphine.
The head of poppy growing operations at Macfarlan Smith, Jonathan Gibbs, said that there is no consumer risk as they use extremely strict processes. He added that their cleaning processes are 99.9% purity.
A number of countries around the globe have banned poppy seeds, including several Gulf countries and the United Arab Emirates.
During 2011, the Philippines Food and Drug Administration banned food and dip products containing poppy seeds from the grocery manufacturing company, Kraft.
Image Credit: muffinn