‘Kas kas’ safe to eat, says expert

PETALING JAYA: Poppy seeds do not contain banned substances and are not addictive unless they are mixed with other parts of the plant, said a toxicologist.

By itself, the poppy seed or kas kas has a negligible amount of codeine, which is unlikely to be detected in a urine test unless consumed in huge amounts, says Prof Dr Mustafa Ali Mohd from Universiti Malaya’s Department of Pathology.

“Many parts of the poppy plant are addictive and can cause euphoria, but not the seeds. The seeds can be eaten.

“The problem comes when the husks of the pods and the twigs are added into the seeds. These contain much more codeine and other addictive components,” he said in an interview.

Kuala Lumpur Narcotics Criminal Inves­tigation Department chief SAC Wan Abdullah Ishak said recently that consumers eating food laden with poppy seeds could be charged in court and jailed or fined if tested positive for drugs.

Dr Mustafa said opium is derived from the coagulated latex of poppy pods.

Besides codeine, the pods, twigs and leaves also contain morphine, thebaine, noscapine and scopolamine which could cause addiction, he said.

“Regulatory bodies should make sure that the seeds are clean and do not have other poppy plant components with them.

“Consumers too can take precaution by avoiding poppy seeds that are mixed with other parts of the plant,” he said.

Asked whether seeds were considered part of the plant since it was illegal to consume poppy plants in Malaysia, Dr Mustafa said poppy plants were deemed illegal because they contained illegal ingredients.

“If it (the seed) does not contain the illegal ingredients, it cannot be illegal.

“It is like the case of a drug addict carrying a plastic bag labelled as ganja, if tests show that it is starch, he will be free,” he said.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said the ministry would not ban the import and usage of poppy seeds for culinary purposes as consumption in small amounts would not result in addiction.

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