11 November 2022

NSW Health is warning people about the dangers of consuming large amounts of poppy seeds after at least eight people in NSW presented to hospital with severe poisoning soon after ingestion. More cases have been reported interstate.

Symptoms of poisoning have only been observed when people have purposely consumed poppy seeds as a drink. Reported symptoms can be severe, including:

  • seizures
  • severe muscle pain
  • severe muscle spasm, cramping, stiffness or abnormal movements.

Preliminary investigation suggests that high levels of a naturally occurring chemical in the raw poppy seeds may be a factor, which needs to be well-cooked to be destroyed.

The investigation is ongoing and there have been no cases of poisoning in people who have eaten poppy seeds as part of a baked food product.

Medical Director of the NSW Poisons Information Centre, A/Prof Darren Roberts, said consuming large quantities of this chemical in poppy seeds can be dangerous.

"We are 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 by visiting their nearest Emergency Department. Call triple zero for emergency assistance," A/Prof Darren Roberts said.

The NSW Poisons Information Centre can be contacted 24/7 on 13 11 26 and can provide more information about poisons and what to do in suspected cases of poppy seed poisoning.

NSW Health is working with the NSW Food Authority, as well as other jurisdictions, to investigate the issue further.