WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) along with Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced the Stephen Hacala Poppy Seed Safety Act. The legislation would prohibit the sale of poppy seeds that contain a harmful level of opiates and require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue regulations that establish a maximum level of contamination.
“The sale of unwashed poppy seeds is a threat to the safety of Arkansans and all Americans. This legislation honors Stephen Hacala Jr.’s memory by protecting other consumers from falling victim to dangerous, toxin-laced poppy seeds sold online and families from experiencing the loss of a loved one from similar circumstances,” Boozman said.
"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 and entering our food supply. 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.
Congressman Steve Womack (R-AR) is leading companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
“Stephen Hacala Jr.'s life was cut tragically short because our nation's drug laws haven't kept pace with the current realities and challenges we face. His family has used their grief to advocate for change surrounding the dangers of unwashed poppy seeds, which can be laced with lethal substances. Prohibiting the sale of this harmful product not only ensures the safety of American consumers, but it also prevents another family from experiencing this heartbreaking tragedy,” said Womack.
Text of the legislation can be found here.
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.
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.