Scientific Opinion on the risks for public health related to the presence of opium alkaloids in poppy seeds


poppy seeds, morphine, codeine, dietary exposure, toxicity, pharmacology, acute reference dose (ARfD)
First published in the EFSA Journal
8 novembre 2011
5 octobre 2011
Opinion of the Scientific Committee/Scientific Panel

Poppy seeds are obtained from the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum L.). They are used in bakery products, on top of dishes, in fillings of cakes and in desserts and to produce edible oil. The opium poppy plant contains narcotic alkaloids such as morphine and codeine. Poppy seeds do not contain the opium alkaloids, but can become contaminated with alkaloids as a result of insect damage, or through poor harvesting practices. The European Commission asked the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to provide a scientific opinion on the risks for public health related to the presence of opium alkaloids in poppy seeds intended for human consumption. Following a call for data, EFSA received the results from analyses of opium alkaloids, primarily morphine, codeine, thebaine, papaverine and noscapine, in samples of poppy seeds, bakery products and baking ingredients. Based on the relative prevalence of the alkaloids present in poppy seed and food samples analysed, and on their pharmacological potency, the EFSA Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM Panel) concluded that the risk assessment could be based on dietary exposure to morphine alone. The CONTAM Panel applied an uncertainty factor of 3 to establish from the lowest known single oral therapeutic dose of 30 µg morphine/kg body weight (b.w.) an acute reference dose (ARfD) of 10 μg morphine/kg b.w. Estimates of dietary exposure to morphine from foods containing poppy seed demonstrate that the ARfD can be exceeded during a single serving by some consumers, particularly children, across the EU. This risk assessment relates to poppy seed samples with an alkaloid profile comparable to that of the submitted data and should not be extrapolated to poppy seed samples with a qualitatively different alkaloid profile.

Panel members at the time of adoption
Jan Alexander, Diane Benford, Alan Boobis, Sandra Ceccatelli, Bruce Cottrill, Jean-Pierre Cravedi, Alessandro Di Domenico, Daniel Doerge, Eugenia Dogliotti, Lutz Edler, Peter Farmer, Metka Filipič, Johanna Fink-Gremmels, Peter Fürst, Thierry Guérin, Helle Katrine Knutsen, Miroslav Machala, Antonio Mutti, Martin Rose, Josef Schlatter and Rolaf van Leeuwen
Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain
contam [at]
EFSA Journal 2011;9(11):2405 [150 pp.].
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European Commission
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