After several were hospitalised and at least one person suffered cardiac arrest, authorities have warned against drinking poppy seed tea. 

Health officials around Australia have issued an urgent warning against consuming poppy seed tea after 19 people were reportedly hospitalised with severe poisoning after drinking it. At least one case of cardiac arrest has also been reported, whereas two people are in the intensive care unit. 

The NSW Health department and the Department of Health in Victoria have advised people to exercise extreme caution while consuming poppy seed tea after the cases came to light.

“Some batches of commercially available poppy seeds, when brewed into a concentrated form such as a tea, have resulted in cases of severe toxicity,” a health alert issued by the Department of Health, Victoria, read. 

According to initial investigations, the departments speculate that the current batches of poppy seeds available in supermarkets might be contaminated. Authorities theorise that the present batches of poppy seeds might have a higher-than-normal thebaine  content. 

Although naturally-occurring thebaine in the seeds is removed when they are well-cooked, the abnormal quantities might be making the teas more toxic. Authorities, however, have not ruled out other factors. Health departments have especially cautioned people using large doses – between 120g – 1kg – of the seeds to brew their teas. 

The alert also cautioned people to be vigilant about the colour of their teas: “Some affected patients have reported the poppy seed tea consumed has had an unusual dark brown colour and bitter taste.” 

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While no reports of poisoning stemmed from smaller amounts, authorities have not ruled out investigating their effects: “Toxic effects have not been reported when poppy seeds have been consumed in smaller quantities for example in baked goods.” 

“However, investigations are ongoing into whether smaller quantities of currently available poppy seeds, when consumed raw or cooked, have any toxic effects.” the statement read. 

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