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Controversy in Egypt over imported chocolate bars containing 'narcotics'

Schogetten chocolate bar [Schogetten.com]
Schogetten chocolate bar [Schogetten.com]

An imported chocolate bar brand has caused a stir in Egypt over allegations the product contains traces of the narcotic opium poppy.

Earlier this month, a high-profile lawyer and former president of Cairo University, Gaber Nassar, claimed in a Facebook post that several people he knew personally had tested positive for opium as part of unplanned drug tests at work "even though they were not smokers".

"By sheer coincidence, I discovered that markets, big malls, and petrol stations sell chocolate that contains poppy, and this is something that has become permissible in most Western countries," he explained.

Although Nassar didn't disclose the name of any brand, in particular, he shared a screenshot of the German Schogetten brand, whose wrapper mentioned the ingredients listed, which included 2.3 per cent of poppy seeds which is commonly used in confectionery and baking. Poppy seed consumption is also known to induce false-positive results for opium.

READ: 70 journalists held in Egypt prisons

The post prompted the Ministry of Interior to issue a statement explaining that poppy seeds are a common food ingredient but had temporarily recalled the products from the market for analysis. While tests found the products to be free of any narcotic substances, further tests were carried out, said a follow-up statement.

Last week, Egypt's Public Prosecution confirmed that no imported chocolate bars contained narcotics and added that the owner of the German brand said the products were approved by the Egyptian Food Safety Authority (EFSA) before reaching the Egyptian market.

The prosecution also questioned the lawyer Nassar who sparked the initial controversy with his social media post. Nassar insisted he had society's best interest at heart when he made the comment, reported Al-Ahram.

In 2019, some 2,000 government employees tested positive for drugs following mandatory tests. Last year Egyptian authorities said that 2.5 per cent of employees working at ministries and governmental offices tested positive for drugs, mainly hashish, tramadol and morphine. In June that year, Egypt ratified a law that stipulates firing government employees who test positive for drugs.

READ: Egypt: 11,500 doctors resigned from gov't hospitals in 3 years

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