Poppy seeds and opiates like morphine and codeine originate from the same species of plant. While the seeds themselves do not contain drugs, they can become contaminated with opiates from other parts of the plant during harvesting. Contamination risks can be dramatically reduced by safe processing steps, like heat treatment and removing plant debris.
Consumers have overdosed and died due to drinking tea brewed from poppy seeds that contain high levels of opiates. Others have tested positive on drug tests merely from eating food containing the contaminated seeds.
Families affected by contaminated poppy seeds have joined together with the Center for Science in the Public Interest to submit a petition to the FDA asking the agency to limit opiate contamination in poppy seeds and ensure that seeds imported into the United States are not contaminated.