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opium seeds

The new opinion confirms the safe level of 10 μg/kg of body weight but this time as a ”group ARfD” that, in addition to morphine, takes codeine content into account when calculating .

EFSA has updated its of opium alkaloids in poppy seeds, confirming many of its previous findings, including the amount of these substances that can be consumed safely. The latest opinion also broadens the evidence that should be considered when calculating the possible risk to consumers.

The safe level may be exceeded by consumers of large amounts of seeds or of foods containing unprocessed poppy seeds. Due to the low amount of data on food products containing poppy seeds, EFSA’s Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain has highlighted uncertainties in estimates.

The assessment also considered data on other alkaloids present in poppy seeds – thebaine, oripavine, noscapine and papaverine. No full risk assessment could be carried out for these substances, but EFSA’s Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain indicated that dietary exposure to thebaine might pose a health risk. More data, particularly on the of thebaine, are needed to clarify this.

The panel also notes that food processing steps, such as washing, heat treatment and grinding, may reduce the alkaloid content in poppy seeds by between 25 and 100%.

Three white poppy seed samples of Papaver somniferum L were found to contain total morphine (free and bound) in the range 58.4 to 62.2 micrograms/g seeds and total codeine (free and bound) in the range 28.4 to 54.1 micrograms/g seeds. Soaking seeds in water was found to remove 45.6 per cent of the free morphine and 48.4 per cent of the free codeine. In ingesting a curry meal or two containing various amounts of washed seeds (morphine intake: 200.4 to 1002 micrograms; codeine intake: 95.9 to 479.5 micrograms), the urinary morphine levels were found to be in the range 0.12 to 1.27 micrograms/ml urine and urinary codeine levels in the range 0.04 to 0.73 micrograms/ml urine. In any large scale screening for abuse of opiate drugs, the possibility of urinary alkaloids arising from consuming food containing poppy seeds must be considered and, if possible, eliminated.