It’s no secret that the Food Drug Administration isn’t a fan of kratom, a popular herb purported to help people with digestive problems, chronic pain, and most prominently, opioid withdrawal. So I can only assume the FDA got a small bit of pleasure when it announced it would oversee the destruction of a “large volume” of kratom after an outbreak of Salmonella was linked to the supplement. However, the agency says the timing of destruction is coincidental and that it was planned ahead of the recall.
On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that at least 28 people across 20 states have become infected with a similar strain of Salmonella since October. None have died, but 11 have been hospitalized. Eight of the 11 victims interviewed by the CDC so far said they took kratom shortly before they became sick, either as a pill, powder, or mixed in tea.
On Wednesday, the FDA proclaimed it was overseeing a metaphorical kratom bonfire:
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today announced the voluntary destruction and recall of a large volume of kratom-containing dietary supplements manufactured and distributed nationwide under the brand names Botany Bay, Enhance Your Life and Divinity by Divinity Products Distribution of Grain Valley, Missouri. In cooperation with the FDA, the company has also agreed to stop selling all products containing kratom.
Oddly enough, the FDA’s latest kratom purge is unrelated to the outbreak. So far there’s been no common brand or supplier of kratom linked to the Salmonella outbreak, and none of the brands listed in the recall are implicated as a potential source.
Kartom’s legal status is in a grey area. Some research has found the drug to be chemically similar to opioids like morphine. While the plant isn’t illegal to consume, the Drug Enforcement Administration attempted to regulate it in 2016 by temporarily placing on its list of controlled substances as a Schedule I drug, which would have effectively banned it from being legally used or studied. The DEA soon backtracked on that plan following outcry from supporters and lawmakers. Since then, the DEA has asked for agencies like the FDA to speed up their own reviews of the evidence in order to inform a final decision.
And while the FDA has called for more research into kratom’s benefits, the agency has routinely seized and destroyed imported kratom shipments it’s managed to confiscate since at least 2014—often through incineration, according to FDA spokesperson Lindsay Meyers. The agency has justified its seize-and-burn policy by classifying kratom products as unapproved drugs.
The FDA would not disclose on the record, however, how these latest recalled kratom products were destroyed.
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb does seem to be using the Salmonella outbreak as an incentive to encourage other producers into dropping their line of kratom products.
“To protect the public health, we’ll continue to affirm the risks associated with kratom, warn consumers against its use and take aggressive enforcement action against kratom-containing products,” Gottlieb said. “We appreciate the cooperation of companies currently marketing any kratom product for human consumption to take swift action to remove these products from circulation to protect the public.”