ROGERS (KFSM) -- A couple from Rogers who lost their son to a morphine intoxication caused by drinking a tea made with unwashed poppy seeds are praising a recent decision by the Food and Drug Administration to call poppy wash "a drug."
In a letter to a website that sells poppy seed wash, the FDA called out the company for misrepresenting its product's health benefits, even going as far to say "Your PoppySeed Wash product is not generally recognized as safe and effective for the above-referenced use and, therefore, the product is a “new drug.”
"They're basically marketing a poppy seed tea product for medicinal purposes that have not been approved by the FDA," said Steve Hacala, who lost his son Stephen in 2016 to a morphine intoxication caused by a mixture of unwashed poppy seeds and water.
Since then, poppy seed wash has been in the crosshairs of Steve Hacala and his wife Betty.
"You should be able to purchase something on the market and be able to consume it without worry," Betty Hacala said.
Unwashed poppy seeds contain an opium latex, and when mixed with the water, create a tea that people can drink. The wash is said to have health benefits, but is also known to be a substitute for opioids, and can be purchased at many online retail sites within the U.S.
Poppy seeds are often found on bagels and in muffins, and when washed, are generally considered safe, but testing has shown even clean seeds can still contain decreased concentration levels of morphine and codeine.
The couple will never know the reason their son drank the tea mixture, but they're working to educate anyone who will listen of their dangers.
"Whether that's through education, regulation, legislation, we're in it to make sure that nobody else suffers the way our son did," Steve Hacala said.
In May, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued a consumer alert to several online retailers requesting them to end the sale of unwashed poppy seeds, where a few of those retailers have since complied, including Walmart, eBay, Bonanza and Etsy.
Betty Hacala said she will continue her mission of working with state and federal lawmakers to educate anyone about the dangers of unwashed poppy seeds
"It's not by race or religion or how much you make or how much you don't make," Betty Hacala said. "For me, it's a passion, and it's my mission to not have this happen to another family."