• Poppy seeds have been linked to at least a dozen deaths across the United States in recent years, as some people have made a concentrated tea from unwashed seeds that can contain fatal levels of opiates.
  • In one case, a 24-year-old was found dead after buying a five-pound bag of poppy seeds on Amazon. A toxicologist analysis of a similar bag from the same brand found that it contained 6,000 mg of morphine — more than 30 times a fatal dose.
  • On Wednesday, companion bills were introduced to Congress to prohibit the sale of unsafe poppy seeds.

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Backlash and a drive for regulation of poppy seeds are building across the United States.

On Wednesday, companion bills were introduced to Congress to prohibit the sale of unsafe poppy seeds in the wake of growing concerns and a rising death toll related to the seemingly harmless baking ingredient.

Since 2010, at least 12 people have died in the US after consuming unwashed poppy seeds, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). The deaths have been linked to the consumption of contaminated, unwashed poppy seeds and seed pods that contained fatal levels of opiates.

Purchasing poppy seeds that have not been washed is currently a nebulous legal category. Buying poppy seeds for cooking or baking is completely legal. However, other parts of opium poppies — from which poppy seeds are made — are considered Schedule II controlled substances, meaning they are illegal to grow or buy for non-medical purposes in the US.

Unwashed poppy seeds can be contaminated with other parts of the opium poppy plant, called poppy straw. Many shoppers seek out “unwashed” seeds for supposed health benefits, culinary reasons, or in an attempt to get high from the product. When brewed in a poppy tea, the seeds’ opiate content becomes concentrated, putting drinkers at risk of overdose and…