Iowa’s largest grocery chain is having to take special precautions with a particular product in the spice aisle of its stores — due to shoplifters trying to get high. Small containers of poppy seeds have been disappearing by the dozens. Brian Wills, manager of a Cedar Rapids HyVee store, says it’s a puzzling situation.
Wills says, “We would receive a shipment of the item in one evening, get it stocked and by noon the very next day, all of it would be off of the shelf.” Poppy seeds are a key ingredient in muffins, cakes and even salad dressing, but the little jars cost less than a dollar each. Why steal them? Wills says they were confounded.
Wills says, “We thought maybe we missed something on a cooking show or something like that, and we just weren’t keeping up.” Store officials turned to the Internet and learned large amounts of the spice can be used to create poppy seed tea. The drink acts like morphine and can make people feel high or even hallucinate. Shawn Stepp, a drug treatment counselor at Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids, says poppy seed tea can be dangerous and even fatal.
Stepp says: “Some of the effects they may feel will be dizziness, nausea, sedation, itching and cardiac arrest. So, these are not real desirable symptoms.” At many HyVee stores, thefts were so severe that the poppy seed containers now sit behind the service desk and customers have to ask for them. Nutmeg can also act as a dangerous narcotic when taken in large quantities, however, stores say they haven’t had a problem with people stealing that spice.