Love your poppy seed cake/muffin/bagel? It’s time to love it a little less.
The City Narcotics Criminal Investigation Department are warning Malaysians against consuming cakes topped with or containing poppy seeds, adding that the police conducted drug screening on the poppy seeds found in the suspected cakes and found them to be positive for morphine.
The department chief SAC Wan Abdullah Ishak said consumers if found positive for drugs, “even if they denied it”, could be charged in court. “If they are subjected to a urine test and found positive for drugs, they will be detained. They can be charged under Section 15(1) of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, which carries a maximum 2 years’ jail or RM5,000 fine, for taking drugs,” he told reporters Tuesday (12th April 2016).
“Even with possession of less than 5 gm of ganja from the poppy plant, is an offence under Section 6 of the DDA 1952, which carries a maximum 5 years’ jail and RM20,000 fine on conviction,” he added.
According to him, police had detected cases where poppy seeds, which are illegal to consume in Malaysia, were added to cakes, allegedly to boost sale. “We found that ‘Lemon poppy seed cakes’ were sold openly for RM13 a piece. The buyer after consuming a large portion would feel a sense of ‘high’ or euphoria,” he warned.
Nevertheless, Wan Abdullah stressed, it was too early for police to swoop down on the culprits, who are allegedly the suppliers and cake sellers as investigations were still ongoing. He said police would also carry out further tests at the Malaysian Chemistry Department to confirm that drugs were really present in such cakes.
Poppy seeds or “kas kas” as they are known in Malaysia are believed to be widely used in food preparations in countries in Europe, Middle East, and India. As far as we know, poppy seeds are banned in Saudi Arabia and some types are also banned in Singapore.
But the more pressing question is:
Can eating poppy seed cake really affect the outcome of a drug screening test?
According to the US Anti-Doping Agency, opium (the milky substance extracted from the seed pod of the opium poppy) is composed of roughly 12% morphine, codeine, and a number of other non-narcotic alkaloids. While the seeds don’t contain morphine, during harvesting the seeds can become coated by, or absorb some of the opium extract.
Most of the opium is removed from the seeds during processing (usually more than 90%), but in some cases, the poppy seeds sold for use in foods still have a significant amount of opium (and thus morphine) on them.
In a separate snopes article, it states that morphine and codeine can be detected in urine for at least 48 hours after one eats food containing poppy seeds. As little as a single bagel covered with poppy seeds could produce a false positive test for these drugs.
Can you get high from eating one poppy seed bagel or one poppy seed muffin or one slice of lemon poppy seed cake? Unlikely. You’d need to eat enough of them to actually feel high, but that also means that you’d need to cram a lot (and we mean A LOT) of poppy seed bagels/muffins/cakes down your throat first.
UPDATE (13th April, 4pm):
Import and usage of poppy seeds will not be banned, according to the Health Ministry. Although poppy seeds are used in small amounts to enhance the flavour of dishes, Minister of Health Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said that the Health Ministry will monitor to ensure that there’s no abuse. “The public should inform us if they suspect any shops use poppy seeds in excessive amounts,” he said.