Family fights to ban sale of unwashed poppy seeds after son’s death


WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Three years ago this week an Arkansas man died after drinking tea made from poppy seeds he ordered online. The seeds are marketed as “natural” or “unwashed” but the family of Stephen Hacala says they were coated with deadly drugs.

Stephen Hacala’s father says, “I’m haunted by the knock on the door that we got on April 3rd, 2016.”

That was the day the family found out 24-year-old Stephen had died in his sleep.

“The three years have been horrible. Stephen was an amazing young man,” says Steve Hacala.

Stephen died from a morphine overdose after drinking tea made from the poppy seeds he ordered online.

They’re marketed as “raw” or “unwashed.” But that means residue from the rest of the poppy plant is left on the seeds. And researches have found some are coated with high levels of opiates like morphine and codeine.

After Stephen’s death, the Hacalas found nearly two dozen other fatal overdose cases that were traced back to poppy seeds.

They started working with Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton to stop the sale of unwashed seeds. A year ago, their first step was to contact online retailers.

Steve Hacala says, “To date, they’re still selling these products.”

They also asked the FDA and Department of Justice to step in.

“They are working on the issue but I’m not willing to wait any longer,” says Sen. Tom Cotton R-Ark.

This week Cotton introduced a bill aimed at stopping unwashed poppy seeds from being sold in the U.S.

“This is a gap in our law,” says Cotton. “They shouldn’t be sold in our country.”

Betty Hacala says, “We’re trying very hard to protect future families.”

The Hacalas are now taking steps to make sure the law gets passed so that others don’t experience their pain.

Steve Hacala says, “He would have wanted us to take up this fight.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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