Washington, D.C. - Today Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and John Boozman (R-Arkansas), along with Congressman Steve Womack (R-Arkansas), introduced companion bills to stop the sale of deadly morphine-laced poppy seeds. The bill would classify poppy seeds that contain a harmful level of opiates as an adulterated food and prohibit their sale directly to consumers.
While most poppy seeds are harmless, some manufacturers sell seeds laced with morphine at a cost far higher than normal seeds. These seeds can contain more than 20 times the therapeutic dosage of morphine. To date, there have been more than a dozen confirmed deaths from morphine-laced seeds.
"Stephen Hacala Jr. died from an opioid overdose because of a dangerous gap in our nation's drug laws. Despite government warnings, unwashed poppy seeds, which can contain lethal doses of morphine, are still available for sale online. As our country continues to fight the opioid crisis, it's time to end sales of unwashed seeds so that no other families experience the pain the Hacala family has endured," said Cotton.
"The sale of unwashed poppy seeds is a threat to the safety of Arkansans and all Americans. Approving this bill would honor Stephen Hacala Jr.'s memory by preventing other consumers from falling victim to dangerous, toxin-laced poppy seeds sold online," said Boozman.
"Our drug laws haven't kept pace with the many challenges we face as a nation. While unwashed poppy seeds don't immediately sound dangerous, they can be laced with lethal substances like morphine. Stephen Hacala Jr.'s life was cut tragically short because of it-and his family used their grief to advocate for change. By prohibiting the sale of this harmful product, we will help ensure the safety of American consumers and prevent another family from losing a loved one," said Womack.
On April 3, 2016, Stephen Hacala of Fayetteville, Arkansas, died from morphine intoxication caused by morphine-laced poppy seeds purchased from Amazon. As many as 20 other Americans reportedly have died from overdoses caused by morphine-laced poppy seeds sold directly to consumers.
A research team led by Dr. Madeleine Swortwood, assistant professor of forensic science at Sam Houston State University, studied the morphine content in different bags of poppy seeds. The researchers found that some bags of poppy seeds contained morphine levels many times higher than a fatal dose.
The bill text can be found here.