Malaysian police warn consumers of poppy seeds 'high'

A bagel or a cake spiced up with poppy seeds could now land you in the lockup, Malaysia police have warned.
A bagel or a cake spiced up with poppy seeds could now land you in the lockup, Malaysia police have warned. PHOTO: THE STAR/ ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A bagel or a cake spiced up with poppy seeds could now land you in the lockup, Malaysia police have warned. Police are looking into cases of poppy seeds being used in cakes, said Kuala Lumpur's City Narcotics Criminal Investigation Department chief Wan Abdullah Ishak.

Tests done on the poppy seeds found in those cakes detected traces of morphine, he told Bernama news agency.

"We found that 'lemon poppy seed cakes' are being sold openly for RM13 (S$4.50) a piece," Senior Assistant Commissioner Wan Abdullah was quoted as saying on Tuesday by Bernama. "After a large portion, the person would feel 'high' or euphoric," he said.

He noted that while consumption of poppy seeds is not illegal in Malaysia, the consumer could test positive for drugs and be liable to be charged in court. "If they are subjected to a urine test and found positive for drugs, they will be detained," said SAC Wan Abdullah.

Offenders can be charged under Section 15(1) of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, which carries up to two years' jail or RM5,000 (S$1,740) fine.

The public "should know these things", he said. "If you already know that it could turn up positive, just avoid eating it altogether."

"Pleading ignorance will not help. You will still be detained until we can determine if you are a drug abuser or just an unsuspecting consumer," he said.

Yesterday, Health Minister S. Subramaniam dismissed the concern as "not new" and said that his ministry was not banning the import or use of poppy seeds, which are commonly added as a spice in traditional cooking.

He noted that the US Food and Drug Administration classifies poppy seeds as safe for consumption due to their low morphine content, media reports said.

"Many local delicacies use poppy seeds, also known as kas kas. This matter is not new and the morphine level in poppy seeds is very minimal," Dr Subramaniam told reporters when asked to comment on narcotics department's warning.

"If you take a huge content and regularly, then there is a chance of becoming addicted. The amount used in cooking is minimal and if you put too much, it will alter the taste," the minister said.

Asked if the police had asked for input from the ministry, Dr Subramaniam said: "We learnt about (the narcotics official's warning) when we read the newspapers today."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 14, 2016, with the headline 'Malaysians warned of poppy seed 'high''. Print Edition | Subscribe