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Poppy seed bagel baker charged for narcotics offense
by Jou Ying-cheng, Staff Reporter
Jan 4, 2001
Taipei Times
Taipei District Prosecutors' Office yesterday indicted a bakery owner for importing poppy seeds to be used in making bagels.

Prosecutors have charged the baker with possession of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, an offense punishable with a prison sentence not exceeding two years or a fine not exceeding NT$30,000.

The Marco Polo Bakery said the poppy seeds it imported were not from opium poppies but the prosecution disagreed.

"Poppy seed bagels are popular in many countries, such as the US," a bakery spokesperson, Max Fan, told the Taipei Times yesterday. "We just wanted to introduce a new flavor to customers in Taiwan."

Last January the bakery imported 22.5 kg of Australian poppy seeds from New York in four postal parcels, according to the indictment.

The Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau seized the parcels, clearly marked as poppy seeds, before the bakery had ever made use of the seeds, Fan said.

The accused bakery owner, Cho-Liu Ching-ti, said during the investigation that there were hundreds of species of poppy in the world, and that the species she imported was not from opium poppies and was conventionally used for baking.

The prosecution, however, said the imported poppy seeds had been found to contain morphine and codeine in tests carried out by the Military Police's authentication laboratory.

Consulting the justice ministry, the prosecution said that poppies which contain morphine and codeine were to be identified as opium poppies, banned by the Narcotics Endangerment Prevention Act.

The prosecution said the definition of narcotics in the act was in accordance with the 1988 UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.

Fan said the poppy seeds were introduced to the bakery by its supplier in the US.