Poisoned cakes from Turkey? A viral video causes panic all around the world

These screengrabs were taken from a viral video that supposedly shows poison hidden in a Turkish brand of cakes.
These screengrabs were taken from a viral video that supposedly shows poison hidden in a Turkish brand of cakes.

People all over the world have been sharing a video that supposedly shows poisonous tablets hidden inside mini snack cakes manufactured in Turkey. The FRANCE 24 Observers examined this video, which has been circulating since late October, and found it doesn’t offer proof of a plot to poison the world after all.

The video shows a pair of hands carefully opening up a sealed packet of coconut-cream-filled cakes called Luppo, a brand produced by the Turkish manufacturer Şölen. The hands break the cake and pull out two small white tablets that were apparently hidden inside.

This video was posted and reposted by many different accounts. Most of the captions claim that these small white tablets are poisonous and can cause “paralysis”, “permanent brain damage” or “suffocation".

One post, which has a caption in Italian, was viewed by more than six million people. The caption reads, “Snacks manufactured in Turkey, with the tablets that you see inside, cause paralysis. They have been exported to Israel and Italy. Don’t buy them and don’t eat them. Turkey is playing with fire…”

Since early November, this video has been posted again and again on Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, with each of these posts garnering thousands, hundreds of thousands or even millions of views. Varying captions claim these cakes are being sold as far and wide as Israel, Italy, the United States and Mexico.

The oldest publications of this video on social media date back to October 28, 2019.

Where was this video filmed?

If you look at the catalogue on the Şölen website, there is no sign of a coconut-flavoured cake in a blue wrapper. However, the manufacturer confirmed to Turkish fact-checking website Teyit that it does indeed produce this snack cake. They also gave Teyit copies of lab inspections from an independent factory audit in September showing that this sweet treat doesn’t have any toxic substances in it. Şölen added that this particular cake is made only for export markets and isn’t sold in Turkey.

This is the packaging for the coconut cream-filled cake. (Sölen provided Turkish fact-checking website Teyit with this image.)

Teyit reported that there are several clues in the video that suggest the video was filmed in Iraq, specifically in the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan.

For example, there is a freezer in the video that holds another Turkish product, a frozen chicken by the brand Aspiliç. Iraq is the largest importer of Aspiliç’s products.

Screengrab of the frozen chicken from the brand Aspiliç.

The Italian media outlet Open found several other publications on Facebook that are similar to the video in question. On November 2, an account bearing the emblem of the regional government of Iraqi Kurdistan as its profile picture posted a video and a series of photos showing white tablets concealed in cakes by the same brand. It's difficult to determine from these images alone whether the the tablets were added after the packet was already opened.

So are people in Iraqi Kurdistan panicking about imported Turkish sweets? That’s the conclusion you might come to if you looked at posts by a certain account that claims to be run by the Ministry of Health in Iraqi Kurdistan, but which isn’t verified by Facebook. A video posted on October 29, before the rumour about poisoned cakes went global, shows a man methodically breaking apart coconut-flavoured Luppo cakes without finding any white tablets. Photos posted on November 6 show two men inspecting a bunch of cakes, including Luppo cakes.

These rumours could be part of overarching negative feelings towards Turkish products in Iraqi Kurdistan. Many people there are boycotting Turkish products in protest of the Turkish offensive against Kurdish forces in northern Syria that started on October 9, 2019.

How could these tablets have ended up in the cake?

Though it is impossible to determine exactly how these tablets might have been inserted into a cake, the video contains several elements that make it extremely unlikely that poisoned cakes are being manufactured for global exportation.

Şölen provided fact-checking outlet Snopes with documents attesting to safety checks carried out by the Swiss company SGS in the factories where coconut-flavoured Luppo cakes are produced.

Snopes reported that, based on the information provided by Şölen, the system of filters used in the production of these cakes block any particle larger than 700 microns (0.7 millimeters). It is therefore quite unlikely that the tablets were placed into a cake before it was packaged.

Moreover, the video shows the hand holding the cake disappear from view very briefly (for less than a second). After the hand reappears on screen, a freeze-frame of the video shows a small circular hole on the top of the cake, which seems to correspond with where the tablets are located.

A screengrab of the viral video shows the small circular hole on the top of the cake.

Although impossible to prove from the video alone, it is entirely possible that when the hand holding the cake disappeared from video, someone replaced it with another cake with pills inside.

In short, a number of clues shine doubt on this video and the supposed plot to poison the world with cakes.

This article was written by Pierre Hamdi (@PierreHamdi).