Controlled drugs found in food

THE Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) calls on the Health Ministry to strictly enforce the Poisons Act 1952 as controlled poisons have turned up in food and drink items.

Recently, the ministry found 21 food products – such as health drinks, candies and premixed coffee – that contained the controlled drugs sildenafil, tadalafil, dexamethasone and prednisolone. Sildenafil and tadalafil are the active agents in medication used to treat erectile dysfunction; dexamethasone and prednisolone are steroids.

All these are controlled drugs and can only be purchased with a prescription. The question is, how did these drugs get into the hands of food manufacturers?

This is not the first time this has happened, of course – there have been many cases reported of people getting sick or even dying after consuming premixed (ie, two- or three-in-one) coffee tainted with drugs.

In 2014, a 36-year-old man died after drinking his favourite “traditional” coffee which contained sildenafil. The product, which combines high levels of both sildenafil and caffeine, can cause extremely high blood pressure and if this goes unchecked, it can ultimately lead to death. That particular coffee has been banned by the authorities but it was still available in shops.

Since 2008, CAP has been bringing this matter up with the Health Ministry. In a survey, we found a number of different brands of coffee mixes claiming to contain traditional ingredients such as tongkat Ali or kacip Fatimah. The brand names of some of these coffee mixes appear to hint at the products’ ability to enhance sexual prowess.

From time to time we hear of the Health Ministry confiscating food and supplements containing controlled drugs. Even though they ban such products, similar products containing the drugs are still available under different brands.

The ministry should investigate how manufacturers of these illegal products obtain their supply of controlled drugs. If this is not done, no amount of raids can stop these hazardous products from being sold.

It is time the Health Ministry took a serious view of the situation and strictly enforced the Poisons Act 1952.


President, Consumers Association of Penang (CAP)

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