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KUALA LUMPUR, 14, April 2016:
The health ministry has not made a decision to ban the import and usage of poppy seeds as a spice in traditional cooking.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said poppy seeds were used as an ingredient to enhance the flavour of dishes and the amount used was very low.
The ministry would also monitor to ensure there was no abuse or excess usage of poppy seeds, he said.
“We will act if there is any complaint and the public should inform us if they suspect any shop using poppy seeds in excessive amounts,” he said when asked to comment on the poppy seed issue.
Dr Subramaniam, the Food and Drug Authorities has labelled poppy seeds as a safe product due to its low morphine content and the risk of addiction was insignificant.
Therefore, he said the current concern of getting addicted to poppy seeds should not be a problem if it was used minimally.
“Unless you take a huge content and regularly, then there is a chance of becoming addictive. The amount used in cooking is minimal and if you put too much, it will alter the taste.”
As of now, Dr Subramaniam said the ministry had no safety standard procedure on how to monitor the usage of poppy seeds unless to act on complaints if there was abuse.
Asked if the police had asked for input from the ministry, he said: “So far, no.”
Poppy seeds do not cause addiction or give a ‘high” although its chemical structure is similar to heroin and morphine, according to an expert.
National Poisons Centre director Associate Professor Razak Lajis said the content of kas-kas or poppy seeds was similar to that of heroin or morphine as all of them were derived from the same plant.
“Poppy seeds are from the same plant that heroine or morphine is derived from. So, the chemical structure itself is almost similar.
“As far as I know, there were no cases reported of people getting ‘high’ by consuming kas-kas.”
However, he stressed that a thorough scientific study needed to be conducted to categorise whether poppy seeds are a drug or not.
He was commenting on the statement by City Narcotics Criminal Investigation Department chief SAC Wan Abdullah Ishak that police had detected cases where poppy seeds were added to cakes, allegedly to boost sales.
Razak said the urine test performed on a person who has consumed poppy seeds may be positive for drugs but the result may change to negative if an in-depth test was done in a laboratory.
Meanwhile, Muslim Restaurant Operators Association (Presma) president Noorul Hassan Saul Hameed said poppy seeds was used in a minimal quantity in all dishes as a food enhancer similar to Ajinomoto and it would not cause addiction.
“We do not use it in a big quantity or directly. It is used as a food enhancer and mixed with other spices. Like durian, when we consume it once we will like it very much, but do not say durian is a drug.”
However, he said Presma will abide and accept any final decision made by the government on this issue.
The usage of poppy seeds is not a new issue as it was brought up in 2005 when Jasin MP Datuk Mohd Said Yusof then claimed mamak restaurants use poppy seeds in their cooking to get customers addicted to it.
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