No narcotics in imported chocolate bars in Egyptian market, Egypt says amid 'poppy seed' controversy

Ahram Online , El-Sayed Gamal El-Din , Thursday 14 Apr 2022

Egypt’s Public Prosecution announced on Thursday that no imported chocolate bars in the Egyptian market contain narcotics, after a high-profile lawyer caused controversy on social media last week by claiming that the ingredients to a certain brand of chocolate include an opiate.

An illustrative image of dark chocolate is shown atop cacao beans. AP

The prosecution says it questioned the owner of the company that imports the chocolate bar in question, who said the chocolates are imported from Germany in accordance with health regulations.

The owner said the German chocolate bars were tested and approved by the Egyptian Food Safety Authority (EFSA) before their sale in Egypt.

The prosecution also sent samples of the chocolate bars to the Forensic Medical Authority (FMA) for testing and no narcotics were found.

The FMA said the chocolate bars’ ingredients included poppy seeds, which contain no narcotics and have no psychoactive effects.

Although the poppy plant is the main ingredient in opiates like heroin and morphine, the plant’s seeds contain no psychoactive drug and are commonly used as flavouring in food products, including pastries, muffins, cake and bread.

The prosecution also questioned well-known lawyer and former president of Cairo University Gaber Nassar, who initially caused the controversy by alleging on social media that a brand of chocolate bar commonly sold in Egypt contains “a proportion of the poppy drug.”

Nassar told the prosecution that he had society’s best interest at heart when he made the comments.

Nassar had said last week on his Facebook page that he had received complaints from people in “high-profile positions” who failed drug tests at their places of employment after presumably consuming the chocolate.

Nassar posted a picture of a chocolate bar packaging, on which the list of ingredients said it contained 2.3 percent poppy.

In a follow-up post, Nassar said experts on the matter contacted him and clarified that the chocolate contains poppy seeds, not opiates.

The lawyer blamed the manufacturing company for the confusion, saying it did not “elaborate” on the matter, especially since the poppy plant is criminalised under Egyptian law, Nassar stressed.

In 2021, Egypt ratified a law allowing the government to sack employees who test positive for illicit drugs.

The law stipulates that those who are seeking jobs in state authorities, state administrative units, public sector companies, public utility management companies, rehabilitation centres, kindergartens, schools, and hospitals must also test negative for drugs.

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