Urgent product recall – “Message in a bottle” containing toxic seeds

11 January 2007

The Ministry of Health and MAF Biosecurity New Zealand are urgently recalling a ‘Message in a Bottle’ product containing highly toxic seeds. 

The brightly coloured seeds from the plant Abrus precatorius are in decorative jars being sold as a novelty item. The bottle is designed to be opened so that the recipient can read the message inside. Each bottle contains about 12 seeds. 

It is understood 72 ‘message in a bottle’ products were brought into the country and the importers and Biosecurity New Zealand (BNZ) have located all but six. The outstanding items were sold through Abstractz Interiors in Onehunga (1 item outstanding from this location), Lagoona in Mt Maunganui (2 items outstanding) and the Foxton Bookshop (3 items outstanding).

If you have one of these products (see picture attached) or know of their whereabouts, please call 0800 80 99 66 immediately.

Although the seeds are intended to be decorative, their small size and bright colouring may appeal to children, who could be tempted to eat them.

Dr John Fountain from the National Poisons Centre said if swallowed whole the seed would likely pass through the digestive system without any effects.  However, chewing the seed could result in very serious health effects and possibly lead to death in a child.

No reports of anyone having eaten the seeds has been made to the National Poisons Centre or BNZ.

Should people have concerns regarding a suspected poisoning they should contact the National Poisons Centre on 0800 76 47 66.


For more information contact:

Annie Coughlan
Adviser, Environmental Health
Ministry of Health
Ph: 04 495 4376 or 027 4343 222 Email:  annie_coughlan@moh.govt.nz

Contact MPI

for general enquiries phone

0800 00 83 33