All Erdogan's meals tested at home and abroad: Doctor

Every meal that goes before Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (above) is rigorously tested both at home and abroad for fear of possible assassination, his personal doctor said. And now a special food analysis laboratory will be built at Erd
Every meal that goes before Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (above) is rigorously tested both at home and abroad for fear of possible assassination, his personal doctor said. And now a special food analysis laboratory will be built at Erdogan's controversial presidential palace to make sure all his food is safe to eat. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

ANKARA (AFP) - Every meal that goes before Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is rigorously tested both at home and abroad for fear of possible assassination, his personal doctor said.

And now a special food analysis laboratory will be built at Erdogan's controversial presidential palace to make sure all his food is safe to eat, Cevdet Erdol told the Hurriyet newspaper on Tuesday.

"It's usually not through bullets that prominent figures are being assassinated these days," Erdol said.

Currently, samples of the President's food are analysed in laboratories in both Ankara and Istanbul and during his visits abroad, he said.

Erdogan's opponents accuse him of increasing megalomania, and the authorities of setting up a cult of personality around the man who has ruled Turkey either as president or prime minister since 2003.

Erdogan's 1,150-room palace, which opened last year on the outskirts of Ankara, has been condemned by critics as an absurd extravagance that shows he is slipping further towards authoritarian rule.

Erdol said a fully-equipped lab will soon be built at the grandiose complex, where every dish will be inspected by medically-qualified professionals.

There is also a five-member emergency team on duty at the heavily-guarded palace 24 hours a day, analysing everything he eats and drink to guard against radiation, chemical materials and bacteria.

"Fortunately, we have not had any serious incidents so far," Erdol said, adding that the food was bought only from trusted sources.

Turkey's eighth president Turgut Ozal survived an assasination attempt in 1988 when a right-wing gunman shot him at a party congress.

Family members have long believed that Ozal, who died in office in 1993 of an unknown cause, was poisoned, but a court in 2012 ruled out the possibility.

Five time prime minister Bulent Ecevit, who died in 2006, survived nine assassination attempts, most notably in the western city of Izmir and New York, where bullets narrowly missed him.

In 2006, former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko died from radioactive poisoning in London, three weeks after he drank tea infused with polonium-210 at a luxury hotel.

Erdogan in January appointed Ibrahim Saracoglu, a professor of biochemistry and microbiology known for his research on the healing effects of plants, as one of his advisers.