A popular herbal supplement that some people use in lieu of powerful opioid drugs has been linked to an outbreak of salmonella, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday.

So far 28 people in 20 states are believed to have been sickened by contaminated kratom, a plant native to Southeast Asia that’s variously ingested as pills or powder or brewed into tea. Eleven people have been hospitalized.

Laura Gieraltowski, the CDC’s foodborne outbreak team lead, said it’s not yet known how the kratom would have come to be contaminated with salmonella, noting it could have happened in processing, or the plants could have been contaminated in the field. But Gieraltowski said the CDC has seen outbreaks caused by supplements before, including powders used in smoothies.


She suggested there are probably more cases that haven’t come to the attention of the medical community. Salmonella causes diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps that can last for up to a week, but most people recover without treatment.

Kratom can be purchased easily and legally — at least at present. But it is under intense scrutiny by the Food and Drug Administration. Earlier this month the agency reported that its studies had found the plant was an opioid.

“Kratom should not be used to treat medical conditions, nor should it be used as an alternative to prescription opioids,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement. “There is no evidence to indicate that kratom is safe or effective for any medical use.”

In 2016 the Drug Enforcement Administration touched off a firestorm when it announced that on an emergency basis it was going to unilaterally classify ingredients in the supplement as a Schedule I drug. Schedule I drugs are defined as having no accepted medical use and a high risk for abuse.

Other drugs in that classification include heroin, ecstasy and LSD.

The American Kratom Association and patients who use the supplement for pain control immediately pushed back on that decision. A few months later, in the autumn of 2016, the DEA said it would delay rendering a decision on kratom until the FDA was able to complete a scientific evaluation of the supplement.

There have been several signs since then that the legal status of the supplement may be headed for a change.

In an earlier statement issued last fall, Gottlieb warned that the agency knew of 36 deaths linked to kratom use.

Kratom goes by a variety of names including Thang, Kakuam, Thom, Ketom, and Biak.

The CDC said so far the outbreak investigation has not pointed to a common brand or supplier of the supplement.

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  • Just another example of a person shilling for big pharma, either wittingly or not. Kratom is a relative of coffee. Not even remotely the same as vicodin and less subjectively effective than kava. Want to stop the opiod epidemic? Stop glaxo smith kline from pushing oxycontin. They are the cause of all of this, not to mention Bayer, who invented heroin, stating at the time that it was non addictive. Then as now. They see kratom as a threat to the bottom line either to oxy or to methadone and suboxone. The last thing they want is people sober and able to see the evil they perpetrate daily. Kratom is harmless. The data is false. Thia author is lazy at best, and complicit at worst.

  • absolutely absurd to attack this herb and it’s supporters by loosely linking these undocumented, uncollaborated reports. what started as a report on salmonella poisoning bloomed instantly into retro 80s anti “plant drug” hysteria. dear author-how can you bear to look in the mirror?

  • Total and complete bullshit to scare people into not using kratom ! Period ! The fda is big pharma’s bitch ! Lmao ! What a complete scam they are!

  • What a lousy story!
    Where are your sources? Where are the facts?
    Saying these salmonella cases were caused by kratom and NOT providing proof is exactly like saying they were caused by breathing or being “alive”.
    You are rucking FUD, pure and simple.
    I thought STAT was better than this.

  • It wasn’t kratom. They even said that they haven’t traced the source, they have found zero contaminated kratom. They’re basing this on a handful of people across the country who got salmonella and also happened to have taken kratom. No explanations of how the others got it, including a 6 year old. It’s complete BS, pharma wants it banned and Scott Gottlieb is fighting for them, not us, as FDA Commissioner. It’s outrageous.

  • The FDA is full of crap on this. The supposed deaths linked to it are very, very fishy. Specifically, people who have several other substances in their system at the time of death. Just because kratom was in their system does not mean it played a role in their death. And even if the FDA’s BS “science” were true, we’re still talking about an EXTREMELY low number. It’s estimated that between 3-5 million people in the US use kratom. In the next 24 hours, another NINETY-ONE people in the US will have died from opiate overdoses. Despite what the FDA is trying to claim, there is zero evidence that kratom by itself can kill. To the contrary, unlike REAL opiates, science has shown that kratom users don’t get the respiratory depression that is nearly always the reason for opiate overdose deaths. This is a SAFE plant (not a drug) that people are using to get their lives back with. Whether it’s for treating opiate addiction, pain relief, anxiety, or PTSD, we the people DESERVE to have access to this incredible miracle of nature. People are waking up to the fact that we have been LIED TO about medicines like cannabis and kratom. The bottom line here is that because we are talking about a plant that cannot be patented and thus turned into a cash cow for big pharma, they are trying to shut it down. In spite of all of the REAL evidence and everyday testimonials to its benefit. Do your own research, folks. Your government and many of your media outlets are misleading you.


    • Big pharma owns the FDA and the CDC, and all the medical schools in America. It’s why all doctors push pills. It’s all they do anymore. They push poison pills that have some many side affects including pills that are addictive. These groups want to ban anything that has few side affects and that aren’t addictive. They want to keep people sick and addicted. No cures come from Western medicine any longer. They want to ban nutrients and vitamins. Just look up the codex alamentarius on the UN’s website.

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