EghtesadOnline: A network of saboteurs is behind the distribution of cakes containing pills and empty capsules in the southern provinces of Sistan-Baluchestan and Hormozgan, says Health Minister Saeed Namaki, adding that the perpetrators will be tracked down soon by security and intelligence services.
Over the past couple of weeks, reports have emerged alleging that pills, including antibiotics and painkillers, have been placed in confectionery such as cakes.
The minister believes the motive for this incident is to hurt Iran's thriving cake and chocolate industry, as findings show the drugs have not been placed in the production stage, ISNA reported.
“Fortunately, there have been no deaths from poisoning resulting from these cases,” Financial Tribune quoted him as saying.
According to Mohammad Hossein Azizi, the head of Health Ministry’s Food Oversight Department, the total number of instances of drugs placed in confectionery products has been very low, IRNA reported.
“No instances were reported in northern provinces and Tehran, or from factory-sealed confectionery products; all reported cases had been found in previously opened packages,” he said.
Iran is the world's 30th biggest exporter of pastry and chocolates. The country exported $800 million worth of pastry and chocolates in the last Iranian year (March 2018-19).
According to Kaveh Zargaran, the head of Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture's Agriculture Commission, Iran produced 1.7 million tons of pastry and chocolates last year.
There are 350 chocolate and pastry production units in Iran.
Iranian pastry and chocolate industry is one of the oldest in the country, which currently generates 400,000 direct jobs.
In an interview with the Persian daily Donya-e-Eqtesad, Secretary of Iranian Pastry and Chocolate Association Jamshid Maghazei said Iran exports its chocolate and pastry to 66 countries.
Iraq and Afghanistan are major export destinations. Other buyers include the US, Japan, Russia, the Commonwealth of Independent States and European countries, especially those in Eastern Europe.
The industry’s nameplate production capacity stands at 2.4 million tons.
According to Maghazei, per capita consumption of pastry and chocolate in Iran is 21 kilograms per annum.
“Pastry and chocolate account for 30-40% of Iran’s total food exports,” Secretary of Trade Promotion Organization of Iran's Pastry, Chocolate and Cereal Products Desk Gholamreza Sabz-Ali said.
About 70% of the machinery used in Iran's chocolate and pasty industry are supplied domestically.
About half of Iran’s biscuits and chocolates are produced in the city of Tabriz in East Azarbaijan Province.