Opium alkaloids in poppy seeds

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EFSA has updated its risk assessment of opium alkaloids in poppy seeds, which confirms 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.

EFSA’s assessment confirmed the safe level of 10 μg/kg body weight but this time as a ”group ARfD”, in addition to morphine, takes codeine content into account when calculating dietary exposure.

This is because the new data show that in some poppy seed samples on the European market, the concentration of codeine can be higher than that of morphine.

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 occurrence data on food products containing poppy seeds, EFSA’s Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain has highlighted uncertainties in exposure estimates.

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

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