Egyptian authorities to test chocolate bars for narcotics after 'poppy seed' controversy

Mohamed Soliman , Tuesday 5 Apr 2022

Egyptian authorities have announced they will test samples of imported chocolate bars currently in the Egyptian market after reports arose that their ingredients allegedly contain a narcotic.

chocolate bar
An illustrative image of a chocolate bar with Poppy seeds in the background

The government’s step came soon after well-known lawyer and former President of Cairo University,  Gaber Nassar made public statements alleging that a brand of chocolate bar commonly sold in Egypt contains "a proportion of the poppy drug."

Nassar said 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.

Poppy seeds are commonly used as flavouring in food products, including pastries, muffins, cake and bread. However, poppy seeds, which first undergo processing, are widely known to cause false positive drug tests.

Poppy seeds themselves don’t contain morphine, but they can absorb opium extract during harvesting as opium substance is extracted along with the poppy seeds from the seed pod of the opium poppy. The opium is composed of roughly 12 percent morphine, which is a narcotic, according to the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).

The interior ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that it will take samples of the chocolate to make sure its ingredients “conform to international standards,” though it added that poppy seeds are used in the ingredients for some foodstuffs after being processed to ensure they are free of narcotics.

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 the end, it is all up to the concerned authorities," the lawyer said.

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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