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Malaysia’s Deputy Health Minister: ‘Poppy seeds in dishes are safe’

No action will be taken against those who use poppy seeds for cooking as the opiate levels are too low to be condemned as drugs

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 November, 2016, 4:29pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 November, 2016, 4:39pm

By Martin Carvalho, Hemananthani Sivandam, Tho Xin Yi, and Rahmah Ghazali 


Poppy seeds or, kas kas in Malay, used to spice up curry dishes that are signatures of Malaysia like nasi kandar and cakes will not make a person “high” like a drug addict, says Malaysia’s Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya.

While poppy seeds contained morphine, its use in food will not result in addiction. It is also safe to be used as a food condiment, he added.

“Malaysians commonly use poppy seeds or kas kas in nasi kandar, curry dishes and cakes. The seeds do contain morphine, but the amount is very low,” he told G. Manivanan of the PKR-Kapar party. The MP had asked whether the use of poppy seeds in food such a cakes was illegal under the Dangerous Drugs Act when its use is common in dishes in India and Europe.

On Tuesday, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said the ministry would not ban the import and usage of poppy seeds for culinary purposes.

Dr Subramaniam said poppy seeds were being used to enhance the flavour of dishes and the amount utilised was very small.

He said the ministry would monitor to ensure there is no abuse and the public should inform on any shops that use poppy seeds excessively.

In April, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said the police will not take action against those who use kas kas for cooking, saying that the amount of opiate derivatives in poppy seeds was too low to cause any harm to those who consume it.

“If it is used to make curry or soups, only a small amount is used.

“Do not worry about kas kas as it has become part of the spices in our local cooking,” he was reported to have said.

In another question, Datuk Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali of Barisan National-Bagan Serai party wanted to know if studies were done on the medical benefits of cannabis.

“There are studies showing that cannabis is used to treat epilepsy or medicinal purposes,” he said.

In his reply, Dr Hilmi said that cannabis or ganja was classified as a prohibited drug.

He said that there was no study done here to determine the medicinal use of cannabis or ganja.

While acknowledging the harmful effects of cigarettes, he said they were deemed a commodity and not a drug.

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