Poppy cases in chocolates rock Egypt

CAIRO — The Egyptian authorities test samples of a brand of chocolate that recently sparked controversy for allegedly containing the narcotic opium poppy.

the an outcry broke out after Gaber Nassar, the former president of Cairo University, revealed that several people, including civil servants, had failed drug tests at their workplaces after allegedly consuming a type of chocolate containing poppy.

Nassar did not mention the name of the chocolate, but it was later revealed to be the Schogetten brand.

In a post, to which he attached a photo of the ingredients listed on the product cover (and later edited), nassar said“Many complaints are filed by individuals, including people who hold high-ranking positions that require drug testing by authorities. The results of the analysis showed that the samples from these individuals are positive. narcotic poppy, and it could expose them to penalties that could lead to their dismissal, even knowing that most of them don’t even smoke cigarettes.

He continued: “Coincidentally, I discovered that markets, large shopping centers and petrol stations were selling chocolate containing poppy seeds, and this is something that has become legal in most Western countries. “

He warned that the circulation and consumption of this chocolate in Egypt when it is known to contain poppy is a crime of abuse and trafficking.

In response, the Ministry of the Interior issued a statement April 4 in which it is said that poppy seeds are included in the ingredients of certain foodstuffs and are processed before use to ensure that they are free of narcotics. He added that samples of the controversial chocolate bars will be recalled from the market for analysis to ensure they meet international standards before consumption.

the The Interior Ministry announced On April 7, all samples taken and analyzed by forensic medicine were found to be free of any narcotic substances. Meanwhile, other tests are still ongoing.

The Egyptian Ministry of Supply and Internal Trade on April 5 launched campaigns to remove the chocolate of certain shopping centers and supermarkets to be able to determine if poppy seeds are in the product.

An official source in the National Food Safety Authority (an independent organization under the Prime Minister’s office) told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that the authority could not easily find samples of the aforementioned product on the Egyptian market, and most of the samples that were withdrawn for analysis did not mention on their packaging that they contained poppy seeds. Still, he added, the authority has submitted the samples for analysis and the results are not yet known.

The source said that if a product is found to contain narcotic substances, the necessary legal action will be taken against the appropriate companies, and he expects the results to be announced in the coming days.

In June 2021, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ratified a law on the dismissal of civil servants who use drugs.

According to the text of the law, government employees must disclose all drugs they take before taking a drug test, whether or not they affect the result. In the event of a positive test, the employee in question will be immediately dismissed from his position.

Meanwhile, the company importing the chocolate brand Schogetten has denied rumors that the chocolate contains narcotic substances.

The deputy general manager of the importing company, Mahmoud Hassan Shahin, said during a phone interview in the television program “Yahdoth fi Masr” (“What happens in Egypt”) on MBC Masr on April 5, “Chocolate contains natural ingredients from all types of chocolate on the market, including cocoa, milk and poppy seed, but it does not contain narcotics.

He added that “the chocolate was imported from Germany six months ago, and the market has exhausted all the quantities”.

He pointed out that all products imported from overseas are subject to food safety analysis and customs clearance before being put on the market.

Mohamed el-Sheikh, the head of the Cairo Pharmacists’ Union and a member of the Egyptian Senate (upper house of parliament), told Al-Monitor: “Narcotic substances in food ingredients are prohibited in Egypt, and the presence of a product on the market that contains poppy seeds or anything like that, even imported, must be investigated.

He added that the poppy is the raw material from which heroin and morphine are extracted, and they are narcotics. He pointed out that the percentage mentioned on the chocolate bars in circulation, which is 2.3%, is not huge, but they do not know its effect on the consumer.

Sheikh said the availability of these products could lead some to exploit large quantities for drug-induced effects, similar to cough medicines containing narcotic substances.

He said testing by the National Food Safety Authority on the product will prove the extent of its impact on drug tests conducted for state employees, and he stressed the need to prevent the circulation of these products if they are found to contain narcotic substances.

In turn, the head of Consumer Protection Authority (a government agency), Ayman Hossam El-Din, said during a phone interview on the same television program “Yahdoth fi Masr” on April 5 that a quantity of this chocolate had already been detected in a number of stores, noting that such quantities were kept aside until analyzed.

He explained that the amount seized so far was 7,500 bars, several samples of which were sent to the central laboratories of the Ministry of Health.

“If the Ministry of Health informs us that the product is safe and does not violate any technical specification, we will take the necessary measures before allowing its circulation,” he added.

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