DEA: Some unwashed poppy seeds are as dangerous as fentanyl

Some are even illegal.

They are some of the most dangerous and deadly drugs: fentanyl, morphine and now DEA has added some poppy seeds to that list. Specifically, contaminated or unwashed poppy seeds. Channel 2 Action News investigative reporter Justin Gray has been investigating this problem all year and learned the DEA is now taking action.

To the naked eye, the products look just like what’s in your spice rack. But the poppy seeds are different and dangerous. The labels use code words like unwashed and raw. They are poppy seeds contaminated by opium that scientists say can have the same dangerous effects as heroin or morphine.

The DEA has posted a new warning about unwashed poppy seeds. The warning on the DEA website says that “unwashed poppy seeds are a danger to the user” and are “in violation of the Controlled Substances Act.” The seeds are now clearly categorized as schedule II controlled substances just like morphine and fentanyl.

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“If you sell these products and don’t take steps to make sure they are not contaminated, you can be prosecuted for drug related offenses,” said Sarah Sorcher, from the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Unless a special test is done, these looks like any other opioid overdose. Investigators found poppy seeds and a water bottle with seeds and liquid in Todd Shirley’s Dahlonega, Georgia home after he died in the spring.

“The more I learn about it, the angrier I become because it shouldn’t have happened,” said Linda Golden, Todd’s mother.

Lumpkin County Corner Jim Sheppard has now confirmed with toxicology tests what he suspected in the spring telling us "...the cause of death for Todd Shirley is classified as acute toxicity of drugs including morphine... the toxicology test results are consistent with poppy seed tea representing the source of the morphine.”

Amazon tells us it has new guidelines for poppy seeds and are monitoring to keep only safe poppy seeds on its site.

But on eBay, we found several poppy seeds products that appeared suspicious. One bag of poppy seeds was labeled unprocessed and priced at $244 for something that should only cost a few dollars. eBay pulled those suspect poppy seeds off the site after we reached out to the company, telling us they are prohibited and against eBay policy.

“I think industry is taking notice of this issue and working to make sure their supply chains are safe,” said Sorcher.

The warning from the DEA with this new notice is that it will treat selling these contaminated poppy seeds like those selling any other illegal drug.